Early Iron Exposure on the Gut Microbiota in Young Infants

  • End date
    May 15, 2023
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    University of Colorado, Denver
Updated on 15 October 2021
Accepts healthy volunteers


This study will look at the amount of iron in infant formula and how that affects a child's gut development. The children of mothers who plan to formula feed their children will be randomized to receive either high iron or low iron formula from birth until 4 months of age. Infants will consume only the study provided formula during enrollment. Blood and stool samples will be collected at birth and end of study to measure the effects of the iron exposure. The overall object is to compare high iron versus low iron exposure in formula-fed infants during the first months of life. Aims include determining the types of bacteria that are present in the infants' fecal microbiome, determining the effect of high iron exposure on gut microbiome and sleep patterns, and comparing iron status and homeostasis between the low and high iron formula groups.


Disturbance of the gut microbial colonization during infancy may result in long-term programming impact of metabolism and disease risks of the host. The early gut microbial colonization coincides with the maturation of the infant's mucosal innate immune system and research showed that the gut microbial dysbiosis is associated with impaired innate immune development. Thus, ensuring proper microbial colonization early in life is critical to the maturation of the immune system and long-term health.

Iron fortification can increase the abundance of pathogenic bacteria and induce inflammation in older infants. However, it is still not known what the effect of iron is on a more vulnerable population: the newborn infant, who has immature immune system. Infants 0-4 months are at a low risk for iron deficiency due to the iron endowment at birth, which is compatible with the very low iron content (<0.5mg Fe/L) in breastmilk. However, commercial infant formulas are all fortified with 12mg Fe/L. Whether this striking difference drives adverse health effects is unknown/unexamined, especially on early colonization and immune homeostasis. The overall objective is to determine the impact of high vs. low iron exposure in formula-fed infants during the early post-natal months on gut microbiome.

Condition Child Development
Treatment Iron in infant formula
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT03828708
SponsorUniversity of Colorado, Denver
Last Modified on15 October 2021


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Healthy new born infants

Exclusion Criteria

Newborn infants with conditions that prohibit cow-milk based formula consumption
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