Taking even a small amount of iron during pregnancy cuts a woman’s risk of developing anemia and decreases the risk that her baby will be born with a low birth weight, according to a new study by Harvard School of Public Health researchers and colleagues.

In an analysis of data from 92 randomized trials and studies involving a total of nearly two million women in 48 countries, researchers found that a daily iron supplement lowered a woman’s risk of anemia by 12% and of having a baby with low birth weight by 3%.

The study was published online June 21, 2013 in the British Medical Journal.

Serious iron deficiency tends to affect women in poorer countries, but wealthier countries can also learn from this research, said lead author Batool Haider, a researcher in epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health. An estimated 16% of pregnant European women have anemia, she said in a BBC interview published June 20, 2013.

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