Iron deficiency among children of asylum seekers in the Netherlands

A A M Stellinga-Boelen, H Storm, P A Wiegersma, C M A Bijleveld, H J Verkade
Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition 2007, 45 (5): 591-5

OBJECTIVES: To investigate, in asylum seekers' children in the Netherlands, biochemical iron status and the prevalence of iron deficiency (ID) and anemia in relation to age, region of origin, length of stay in the Netherlands, body mass index (BMI), and dietary iron intake.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: Hemoglobin (Hb) and plasma ferritin concentrations were determined in 122 asylum seekers' children (median age, 7.1 years; range, 2-12 y). ID was defined by plasma ferritin levels <15 microg/L. Anemia was defined by Hb levels <6.8 mmol/L (11 g/dL) for children <6 years of age and Hb levels <7.1 mmol/L (11.5 g/dL) for children between 6 and 12 years of age. Nutritional status of the children was assessed by BMI and dietary intake of iron was estimated by 24-hour recall.

RESULTS: Twenty percent of the children had compromised iron status (16% with ID, 4% with ID anemia [IDA]). Another 6% of the children had anemia caused by thalassemia. ID was significantly more prevalent in children <6 years of age and in children of African origin. The iron status was not significantly correlated with the length of stay in the Netherlands (r = 0.6; P = 0.48). Higher BMI z scores were positively correlated with iron status. Adequate or marginal dietary iron intake was not significantly related to the presence of ID (r = 0.02; P = 0.9) or anemia (IDA and thalassemia; r = 0.15; P = 0.9).

CONCLUSIONS: Iron deficiency is highly prevalent among the children of asylum seekers in the Netherlands. Our data indicate that systematic biochemical screening for ID is warranted in asylum seekers' children.

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