Pumping Iron and Zinc

Iron and zinc supplements taken during infancy do not have long-term cognitive benefits

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Many infants from poor families lack certain nutrients. Giving these infants iron and zinc supplements to prevent nutritional deficiencies does not appear to have long-term benefits for their mental skills.

In a study of school-age children in Thailand, researchers found that iron and zinc supplements did not boost the IQ, memory, or other intellectual abilities of children when they were given the mineral supplements during their infancy.

Iron and zinc are known to be important nutrients for child growth and development. Yet, until now, researchers had not examined how iron and zinc supplementation during infancy would affect long-term brain development and success and school.

For this study, Dr. Reynaldo Martorell, from Emory University in Atlanta and senior researcher of the study, and colleagues examined 560 Thai children who, during infancy, had been assigned to take supplements of iron, zinc, both minerals, or a placebo. The infants were given the supplements for 6 months.

When the children reached 9 years of age, the researchers performed different tests on the children to assess cognitive performance and success in school.

The researchers found no differences in IQ, memory, attention, or school performance between children who had taken supplements and those who had taken a placebo.

Even though the study's results show no long-term cognitive benefits of iron and zinc supplementation, the minerals still provide other benefits, such as prevention of diarrhea and anemia. As such, poor children in developing countries still have good reason to take iron and zinc supplements.

The study is published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
February 28, 2011
Last Updated:
March 1, 2011