N4 Iron Research

Iron is an essential nutrient which is required for oxygen transport and energy metabolism in many organs, not least the brain. However, iron is also a potent pro-oxidant which may increase the risk of infections and inflammatory disorders and affect the gut microbiome.

We have used iron as a model nutrient in order to identify the nutritional and metabolic pathways linking nutrition and brain development in infants.

Some noteworthy results from our clinical iron studies include

  1. A RCT (the JOHN study) showing that iron supplementation of low birth weight infants decrease the risk of behavioral problems at 3 and 7 years of age.
  2. A RCT showing that delayed umbilical cord clamping increases the newborn’s iron stores, reduces iron deficiency and improves motor development at 4 years of age.

Both of these observations have resulted in changes in national and international clinical practice and recommendations.

In addition to studying the clinical effects of iron in intervention studies, we are also using our research lab to explore novel markers of iron metabolism in children, such as hepcidin and erythroferrone.