Iron Deficiency in Early Childhood in the United States

Risk Factors and Racial/Ethnic Disparities

The current article explored risk factors for iron deficiency for toddlers in the United States with a focus on Hispanic toddlers. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey IV (NHANES IV), conducted between 1999 and 2002, yielded a sample of 1,641 children between the ages of 1 to 3. Iron deficiency diagnoses were ascertained through three laboratory assessments of iron levels.

Key Findings:

  • The number of participating children found to have each of the three indicators of iron status was 960. Of these children, 8 percent had iron deficiency.
  • When parents were interviewed in a language other than English, the study identified that 14 percent of children were iron deficient; 7 percent of children whose parents were interviewed in English were iron deficient.
  • Of overweight children, 20 percent were found to be iron deficient while 8 percent of toddlers at-risk for being overweight were iron deficient. Normal-weight children were found to be iron deficient at a rate of 7 percent.
  • Hispanic children had a 12 percent rate of iron deficiency compared to a 6 percent rate for both White and African-American children. The difference in rate of iron deficiency between Hispanic children and both White and African-American children was statistically significant.
  • Children who were in day care had a lower likelihood of being iron deficient than those who were not.

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