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Providing multiple micronutrients may improve child health

October 6, 2011

According to a new US review, multiple micronutrient interventions may result in improved outcomes for children in settings where micronutrient deficiencies are widespread.

In the review, literature was analyzed to evaluate the feasibility and efficacy of interventions with multiple micronutrients during pregnancy and childhood (1). The analysis focused on 60 meta-analyses and intervention trials investigating potential effects on child health and survival, anemia, physical growth, and motor and mental development. Compared to placebo groups, mothers and children with micronutrient deficiency who received dietary supplements and fortified foods containing vitamins A, D, C, E, thiamin and riboflavin, as well as iron and zinc, showed improvement in linear growth and reduced the risk of anemia thanks to improved hemoglobin concentrations. The studies examining the effects of interventions on child development and morbidity yielded mixed results. The suggestion that multiple micronutrients may reduce delays in motor development in some populations would require further research, according to the researchers.

The scientists noted that the reviewed trials and meta-analyses had several limitations: the measurable efficacy strongly depended on the degree of micronutrient deficiencies as well as health status. The effectiveness of strategies involving fortified foods could also be influenced by complementary feeding practices. In addition, the intended micronutrient dose may not have been reached if the frequency of child’s and mother’s meals and actual amount consumed were suboptimal. Finally, the nature of the intervention, namely the composition, dosage, duration, frequency, and mode of delivery, varied considerably across the studies and made it difficult to provide generalizable recommendations.

References

  1. Ramakrishnan U. et al. Do Multiple Micronutrient Interventions Improve Child Health, Growth, and Development? J. Nutr. Online publication October 2011.