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Open AccessReview

The Role of Iron in Brain Development: A Systematic Review

1
Department of Women and Children’s Health, King’s College London, London SE1 7EH, UK
2
Medical Research Council Unit, The Gambia at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Fajara, P.O. Box 273, Banjul, The Gambia
3
Department of Medical Physics and Biomedical Engineering, University College London, London WC1E 6BT, UK
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Nutrients 2020, 12(7), 2001; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12072001
Received: 28 May 2020 / Revised: 26 June 2020 / Accepted: 1 July 2020 / Published: 5 July 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Effect of Maternal Nutrition on Cognitive Function of Children)
One-third of children falter in cognitive development by pre-school age. Iron plays an important role in many neurodevelopmental processes, and animal studies suggest that iron sufficiency in pregnancy and infancy is particularly important for neurodevelopment. However, it is not clear whether iron deficiency directly impacts developmental outcomes, and, if so, whether impact differs by timing of exposure or developmental domain. We searched four databases for studies on iron deficiency or iron supplementation in pregnancy, or at 0–6 months, 6–24 months, or 2–4 years of age. All studies included neurodevelopmental assessments in infants or children up to 4 years old. We then qualitatively synthesized the literature. There was no clear relationship between iron status and developmental outcomes across any of the time windows or domains included. We identified a large quantity of low-quality studies, significant heterogeneity in study design and a lack of research focused on pregnancy and early infancy. In summary, despite good mechanistic evidence for the role of iron in brain development, evidence for the impact of iron deficiency or iron supplementation on early development is inconsistent. Further high-quality research is needed, particularly within pregnancy and early infancy, which has previously been neglected. View Full-Text
Keywords: iron deficiency; brain development; pregnancy; infancy; pre-school; cognitive; motor; socio-emotional iron deficiency; brain development; pregnancy; infancy; pre-school; cognitive; motor; socio-emotional
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McCann, S.; Perapoch Amadó, M.; Moore, S.E. The Role of Iron in Brain Development: A Systematic Review. Nutrients 2020, 12, 2001.

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