The concern for anemic infants in West Virginia who receive services from the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) has prompted a West Virginia University professor to study the problem.

A recent report released by the Economic Research Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) noted that 40 percent of children who receive services from WIC did not meet their dietary requirements for iron and were insufficient of other vital nutrients such as vitamins A, B6 and zinc at varying levels. WIC infants in West Virginia are not yet meeting the Healthy People 2010 target for reduction in iron deficiency for children ages one to two years old.

In the United States, the prevalence of iron-deficiency anemia has decreased over the past three decades. However, the prevalence of iron-deficiency anemia is higher among infants who live at or below the poverty line, the report indicates.

Cindy Fitch, project investigator and assistant professor of human nutrition and foods at WVU s Davis College of Agriculture, Forestry and Consumer Sciences, plans to focus her research on how dietary patterns and nutrient intake of iron affect health and development of West Virginia infants during the first two years of life. Her research will be used by WIC personnel to design and implement intervention and education programs to prevent iron deficiency.

“By providing insight into relationships among dietary factors and iron status, this project can serve as a basis for appropriate community outreach and education programs that will result in improved iron status among low-income infants and children,”Fitch said.”This will help to lower the monetary costs of impaired immunity and development delays that are associated with iron deficiency.”

Anemia is a medical condition that occurs when red blood cells fail to carry enough oxygen to the tissues to support normal functioning. According to the Anemia Institute for Research and Education, anemia symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, drowsiness, breathlessness and impaired mental function, can deeply impair the quality of life and health outcomes for many chronic sufferers.

An iron-rich diet is vital to developing infants, according to Fitch. The risk of iron deficiency in the United States is greater in infants under the age of 24 months than in any other age groups. Infants require a high amount of iron in proportion to their body weight because of their continued rapid rate of growth and bloom volume expansion.

Iron is present in all body cells and serves several vital bodily functions. Iron is essential to the transportation of oxygen from the lungs to the tissues and is a component of the cells that produce energy for the body. Fitch recommends breast milk or iron-fortified infant formulas, infant cereals and strained meats as good sources of iron for infants.