Overweight children are at double the risk of being iron deficient, a study from Yale University has found. Too little iron in the blood can cause anemia and lead to learning and behavioral problems as well as posing limits on work and exercise.

Iron deficiency is most commonly found in poorer people who lack proper nutrition, but this study concluded that rising numbers of obese people in the developed world should be checked and treated for it as well.

One out of seven American children is overweight, a three-fold increase in the past 30 years, and many do not get screened for iron deficiency.

In the study of 10,000 children aged 2 to 16, nearly one in 10 of the overweight teenagers was iron deficient. Among 2- to 5-year-olds, 6 percent were iron deficient. Overall, the rate of iron deficiency was doubled among overweight children compared to normal-weight children and a higher body mass index (BMI - a ratio of weight to height) was also associated with iron deficiency.

The researchers said the association between iron deficiency and being overweight may be caused by lack of exercise or a diet lacking in iron-rich foods. Genetics could also play a role, they suggested, saying that overweight girls tend to grow faster than their peers, making it difficult for them to keep up with their bodies' iron requirements.

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