CHICAGO (AP) -- A new study finds that pudgy toddlers have an alarmingly high rate of iron deficiency.
Iron deficiency can cause mental and behavioral delays, so the findings underscore the importance of healthy eating habits in children.
Experts blame parents who let toddlers drink cow's milk and juice from a bottle, instead of weaning them and introducing iron-rich foods such as meat, beans, eggs, spinach and fortified breads.
The researchers found that 20 percent of obese toddlers have iron deficiency, compared to 7 percent of normal-weight toddlers.
The study was led by researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and appears in the September issue of the journal Pediatrics.
Dr. Geoffrey Allen, a specialist in blood diseases at Chicago's Children Memorial Hospital, says the findings are a reminder of the importance of childhood tests for iron deficiency.