Low blood zinc, iron, and other sociodemographic factors associated with behavior problems in preschoolers

Jianghong Liu, Alexandra Hanlon, Chenjuan Ma, Sophie R. Zhao, Siyuan Cao, Charlene Compher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous research supports the link among malnutrition, cognitive dysfunction, and behavioral outcomes; however, less research has focused on micronutrient deficiencies. This study investigates whether micronutrient deficiencies, specifically blood zinc and iron levels, will be associated with increased behavior problem scores, including internalizing and externalizing behaviors. 1314 Children (55% boys and 45% girls) from the Jintan Preschool Cohort in China participated in this study. Venous blood samples were collected and analyzed for zinc and iron when the children were 3-5 years old. Behavior problems were measured with the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), which was completed by the parents when children were in their last months of preschool (mean age 5.6 years). General linear multivariate modeling was used, with adjustment for important sociodemographic variables. The results indicate that low zinc levels alone (p = 0.024) and combined low zinc and iron levels (p = 0.022) are significantly associated with increased reports of total behavior problems. We did not find an association between low iron and behavior problems. With regards to sociodemographics, living in the suburbs is associated with increased internalizing problems, while higher mother's education and being female were associated with decreased externalizing problems. This study suggests that micronutrient deficiencies and sociodemographic facts are associated with behavior problems in preschoolers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)530-545
Number of pages16
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 27 2014


  • Cbcl
  • Child
  • Externalizing
  • Internalizing
  • Micronutrient deficiency
  • Total behavior
  • Zinc and iron

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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