Psychiatric disorders common in children suffering from iron deficiency anemia

avoid iron deficiency

Iron deficiency is the commonest nutritional deficiency seen in people worldwide, according to the statistics available with the World Health Organization. Almost 30 percent of children, adolescents and women from non-industrialized nations suffer from iron deficiency anemia. Iron deficiency is also very common in people living in industrialized nations. Although the role of iron in the development of the neurological system is well known, its role in psychiatric illnesses seen in children had not been studied until now. In a path-breaking study, published in a recent issue of the journal Biomed Central Psychiatry, researchers from Taiwan have found that psychiatric disorders like mood disorders, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, developmental disorders and autism spectrum disorder are seen more frequently in children and adolescents suffering from iron deficiency anemia.

The researchers identified 2957 children and adolescents suffering from iron deficiency anemia from the National Health Insurance Database between 1996 and 2008. These children were compared with 11, 828 healthy children of the same age and sex. After making adjustments for demographic factors and other risk factors related to development of iron deficiency anemia, the researchers found that psychiatric disorders were more prevalent in children suffering from iron deficiency anemia. There was an increased risk of such children developing conditions like unipolar depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, tic disorder, developmental delay and mental retardation. Interestingly, it was seen that bipolar disorder and tic disorder was associated with iron deficiency anemia only in females.

Many iron-containing enzymes and proteins play an active role in the development of the central nervous system processes. That is the reason why iron is important for the proper cognitive, sensorimotor, social and emotional development and functioning of the nervous system. Researchers have stressed that physicians should look out for symptoms of psychiatric disorders in children suffering from iron deficiency anemia. Similarly, they should remember to evaluate for iron deficiency in their psychiatric patients. The researchers were unable to find out the mechanism through which iron deficiency anemia is associated with psychiatric disorders. Further studies are needed in this direction.

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Editor: Dr. Bimal Rajalingam MBBS DNB (Resp Med)

Date: 
Thursday, June 27, 2013