Iron is a ubiquitous nutrient that is necessary for normal neurodevelopment. Gestational conditions that compromise fetal iron status include maternal iron deficiency, smoking, diabetes mellitus and hypertension. The iron-deficient neonate has altered recognition memory function and temperament while iron-deficient. The memory deficits persist even after iron repletion. Animal models demonstrate that early iron deficiency affects neuronal and glial energy metabolism, monoamine metabolism and myelination, consistent with behavioural findings in human infants. Of particular recent interest are genomic changes in transcripts coding for signal transduction, dendritic structure and energy metabolism induced by early iron deficiency that last well into adulthood in spite of iron treatment. Early iron sufficiency is critical for long-term neurological health.

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