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Original article

Vol. 144 No. 5152 (2014)

Iron deficiency in infancy: is an immigrant more at risk?

  • Marie-Elise Verga
  • Véronique Widmeier-Pasche
  • Maja Beck Popovic
  • Jean-Yves Pauchard
  • Mario Gehri
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2014;144:w14065


QUESTIONS UNDER STUDY: Iron deficiency with or without anaemia is the most common deficiency in the world. Its prevalence is higher in developing countries and in low socioeconomic populations. We aimed at determining and comparing the prevalence of iron deficiency in an immigrant and non-immigrant population.

METHODS: Every child scheduled for a routine check-up at 12 months of age was allowed to participate in the study. Haemoglobin, ferritin, anthropometric data, familial and nutritional status were measured.

RESULTS: 586 infants were eligible and 463 were included in the study as they had assessment data at 12 months. Children were divided into two groups: immigrants’ children and non-immigrants’ children. The global prevalence of iron deficiency was 5.7% at 12 months. A significant difference for iron deficiency was noticed between the groups at 12 months (p = 0.01). Among risk factors, immigration (odds ratio 2.91; 95% CI 1.05–8.04) and unemployment (odds ratio 6.08; 95% CI 1.18–31.30) had the higher odds in the multivariable analysis.

CONCLUSION: The prevalence of iron deficiency in the immigrant population is higher than in non-immigrants. Immigration and the category of employment are risk factors for iron deficiency, as starting baby cereals before 9 months is a protective factor. Good socioeconomic conditions in Switzerland, the quality of food for pregnant women and young infants may be the explanation. A study up to five years of age is necessary before drawing general conclusions on infancy.


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