Sara Anderson 2007

The Severity and Prevalence of Iron Deficiency in Children under the Age of Five Residing in Chimbote, Peru  

Iron deficiency is one of the most prevalent nutritional disorders worldwide; in developing countries 40% of children under the age of five are iron deficient. Iron deficiency and anemia result in stunted growth, impaired mental development, poor school performance, lower self-esteem and increased morbidity and mortality.

Purpose. To assess the prevalence and severity of iron deficiency in children under the age of five residing in Chimbote, Peru. 

Methods:  Children (n=104) under the age of five were referred by a hospital nurse; their parent/guardian granted consent and completed a survey for general background information. Hemoglobin values were determined using the Hemocue-B. Observations: The average dietary intake of iron for children in Chimbote was 1.5-3.0mg/day (the RDA for children is 10mg/day).  Many children in Chimbote have symptoms of diarrhea (stomach pains/cramping and loose stools), and diarrhea often leads to dehydration.  Dehydration causes artificially high hemoglobin values, and when rehydrated hemoglobin values decrease. The average fluid intake of children in Chimbote is 0.80L (the AI for children age five is 1.7L), further contributing to dehydration and higher hemoglobin values.

Results: Children under the age of three had an average hemoglobin value = 10.3g/dL.  Children age three to five had an average hemoglobin value = 11.5g/dL. (The International Nutritional Anemia Consultative Group considers the normal range for children under the age of five to be 11.5-17g/dL). 

Conclusion: The inadequate fluid consumption and the symptoms of diarrhea suggest that the children were dehydrated. Hemoglobin values obtained were low indicating mild iron deficiency; however, if the children were properly hydrated the hemoglobin values would have been even lower.

Sara presenting her research for the College of Saint Benedict Board, February 2007.

Research Advisor:  Amy Olson, PhD, RDN, LD