Intermittent iron supplementation could replace daily iron supplements for reducing anaemia in developing countries, report researchers from Prince of Songkla University in Thailand.
In a recent study, the scientists compared the effects of weekly and daily iron supplementation in youngsters. Nearly 400 primary schoolchildren from rural Thailand recruited in 1999 randomly received a 300 milligram tablet of ferrous sulfate either daily or weekly, or a placebo, for 16 weeks.
The average increase in haemoglobin was not significantly different between the daily and weekly groups. However, the average increase in serum ferritin was greater in the daily than the weekly group.
All cases of iron deficiency anaemia were eliminated in both daily and weekly groups; no reduction in prevalence occurred in the placebo group.
Height gain was greater in children who received weekly supplements than in those who received daily iron. Weight gain, weight-for-age and height-for-age were not significantly different among the different intervention groups.
The researchers concluded that a weekly iron dose is more effective than a daily dose in height gain but not in haematological improvement over a 16-week supplementation period.
Full findings are published in the March issue of the Journal of Nutrition 132:418-422, 2002.