Why is the incidence of iron deficiency anemia higher in infants who drink cow’s milk?

Updated: Sep 07, 2019
  • Author: James L Harper, MD; Chief Editor: Emmanuel C Besa, MD  more...
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Healthy newborn infants have a total body iron of 250 mg (80 ppm), which is obtained from maternal sources. This decreases to approximately 60 ppm in the first 6 months of life, while the baby consumes an iron-deficient milk diet. Infants consuming cow milk have a greater incidence of iron deficiency because bovine milk has a higher concentration of calcium, which competes with iron for absorption. Subsequently, growing children must obtain approximately 0.5 mg more iron daily than is lost in order to maintain a normal body concentration of 60 ppm.

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