Association Between Meat and Meat-Alternative Consumption and Iron Stores in Early Childhood

Published:January 19, 2016DOI:



      To prevent iron deficiency, 2014 Canadian recommendations for healthy term infants from 6 to 24 months recommend iron-rich complementary foods such as meat and meat alternatives 2 or more times a day. The purpose of our study was to evaluate the association between meat and meat-alternative consumption and iron status in young children and the association between red meat consumption and iron status among children meeting recommendations.


      Healthy children aged 12 to 36 months were recruited. A cross-sectional study was conducted. Meat and meat-alternative consumption was measured using the NutriSTEP questionnaire. Adjusted multivariable regression analyses were used to evaluate an association between meat consumption and serum ferritin, and iron deficiency (serum ferritin <14 μg/L).


      A total of 1043 children were included. Seventy-three percent of children met the recommended daily intake of meat and meat alternatives, and 66% ate red meat in the past 3 days. Eating meat and meat alternatives was not associated with serum ferritin (0.13 μg/L, 95% confidence interval −0.05, 0.31, P = .16), but it was associated with a decreased odds of iron deficiency (odds ratio 0.97, 95% confidence interval 0.94, 0.99, P = .03). Associations between red meat consumption and iron status were not statistically significant. Statistically significant covariates associated with increased odds of iron deficiency included longer breast-feeding duration, daily cow's milk intake of >2 cups, and a higher body mass index z score.


      Daily cow's milk intake of >2 cups, longer breast-feeding duration, and a higher body mass index z score were modifiable risk factors associated with iron deficiency. Eating meat according to recommendations may be a promising additional target for the prevention of iron deficiency in early childhood.


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