Adequacy of iron intakes and socio-demographic factors associated with iron intakes of Australian pre-schoolers



To estimate the prevalence of inadequate iron intakes and identify socio-demographic factors associated with iron intakes of Australian children aged 2–5 years.


Data from the 2011–2012 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey component of the Australian Health Survey were analysed (n = 783, 2–5 years old). Dietary intake was assessed via two non-consecutive 24-h recalls. Prevalence of inadequate iron intake was estimated using the full probability approach after estimating the distribution of usual intakes with PC-SIDE. Associations between potential socio-demographic factors and energy-adjusted iron intakes were assessed via linear regression accounting for the complex survey design.


Mean (SD) iron intakes for pre-schoolers were 7.9 (1.9) mg/day and the prevalence of inadequate iron intake was 10.1% (95% CI 7.9%, 12.1%). Male sex (mean difference between boys and girls: − 0.22 (95% CI − 0.03, − 0.41) mg/day; p = 0.022) and age (each additional year was associated with 0.11 (95% CI − 0.22, − 0.00) mg/day lower iron intake; p = 0.048) were negatively associated with pre-schooler iron intakes.


This study provides current data relating to the iron nutrition of Australian pre-schoolers. Poor iron intakes continue to be a problem for 10% of Australian children beyond the second year of life, with iron intakes being lower for boys compared to girls and declining with age. Future research should examine strategies to improve iron intakes of young children, with a focus on promoting iron-rich food sources.

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SA McNaughton is supported by a National Health and Medical Research Council Career Development Fellowship Level 2 (ID1104636).

Author information




EAS-G conceptualized and designed the current study; LAA, EAS-G, and SAM developed data analysis plan; LAA carried out statistical analyses; EAS-G performed PC-SIDE analyses; LAA wrote the first draft of the manuscript. All authors contributed to the interpretation of results, critically revised the manuscript, and read and approved the final manuscript as submitted.

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Correspondence to Ewa A. Szymlek-Gay.

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Atkins, L.A., McNaughton, S.A., Spence, A.C. et al. Adequacy of iron intakes and socio-demographic factors associated with iron intakes of Australian pre-schoolers. Eur J Nutr 59, 175–184 (2020).

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  • Iron intake
  • Pre-schooler
  • Child
  • 24-h recall
  • Australia
  • Socio-demographic factors