The iron status, dietary intake, and protein energy nutritional status of healthy Asian children ranging in age from 4 to 40 months was investigated. The serum ferritin, erythrocyte zinc protoporphyrin, haemoglobin and mean corpuscular haemoglobin concentrations, and mean corpuscular volume were determined in a community study of 138 children. Protein energy nutritional status was estimated by anthropometry and a four or five day weighed dietary inventory was completed by 97 children. Concentrations of the serum ferritin, haemoglobin, and mean corpuscular haemoglobin, and the mean corpuscular volume decreased progressively with increasing age. The mean values for these four indices were significantly lower in toddlers between 21 and 23 months age than in infants less than 6 months old. The mean erythrocyte zinc protoporphyrin was high in the first six months, later falling and rising again to peak in the 21 to 23 month age group. Thirty five per cent of children were iron deficient (serum ferritin concentration less than 10 micrograms/l) and low values for the mean corpuscular volume and mean corpuscular haemoglobin were observed in 33% and 35% respectively and 17% were anaemic (haemoglobin concentration less than 110 g/l). No association was observed between biochemical iron status and the dietary intake of energy or iron. Nor was there an association between protein energy nutritional status and iron status. Screening for iron deficiency in communities at risk is recommended and nutrition education using trained link workers is preferred to prophylactic iron treatment.
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