coworkers (1997) evaluated the effect of iron supplementation during pregnancy on iron status in newborn babies born to women living in Niger. The prevalence of maternal anemia was 65 to 70 percent at 6 months gestation. The iron status of the infants was also evaluated at 3 and 6 months of age. Although there were no differences between the supplemented and unsupplemented women in cord blood iron indexes at both 3 and 6 months of age, the children born to iron-supplemented women had significantly higher serum ferritin concentrations. Furthermore, it was reported that Apgar scores were significantly higher in infants born to supplemented mothers. There were a total of eight fetal or neonatal deaths, seven in the unsupplemented group.
With use of in vitro tests and animal models, iron deficiency is associated with impaired host defense mechanisms against infection such as cell-mediated immunity and phagocytosis (Cook and Lynch, 1986). The clinical relevance of these findings is uncertain although iron deficiency may be a predisposing factor for chronic mucocutaneous candidiasis (Higgs, 1973). Iron deficiency is also associated with abnormalities of the mucosa of the mouth and gastrointestinal tract leading to angular stomatitis, glossitis, esophageal webs, and chronic gastritis (Jacobs, 1971). Spoon-shaped fingernails (koilonychia) may be present (Hogan and Jones, 1970). The eating of nonfood material (pica) or a craving for ice (pagophagia) are also associated with iron deficiency (Ansell and Wheby, 1972). Finally, temperature regulation may be abnormal in iron deficiency anemia (Brigham and Beard, 1996).
The most important functional indicators of iron deficiency are reduced physical work capacity, delayed psychomotor development in infants, impaired cognitive function, and adverse effects for both the mother and the fetus as discussed above. As indicated earlier, these adverse consequences of iron deficiency are associated with a degree of iron deficiency sufficient to cause measurable anemia.
A specific functional indicator, such as dark adaptation for vitamin A (see Chapter 4), is used to estimate the average requirement