Mixing micronutrient powder into infants’ complementary food reduces rates of anaemia more effectively than nutrition education alone, a new study has concluded.
The study saw a University of Otago (UOO) team conduct a randomised trial on the effectiveness of ‘Sprinkles’ in reducing anaemia and iron deficiencies among 3,112 six-month-old infants in rural Cambodia.
Sprinkles are sachets containing a powder blend of iron and other micronutrients that can be mixed into home-prepared foods.
The study was divided into two groups with caregivers in both groups receiving education about the importance of continued breastfeeding and good complementary feeding. But the intervention group’s caregivers were also given Sprinkles to use in daily feeding for six months.
After 12 months the prevalence of anaemia in the Sprinkles group was reduced 20% and moderate anaemia by 27%.
After 12 and 18 months, iron deficiency prevalence—a risk factor for developing anaemia—was reduced by 24% and 12% respectively in the Sprinkles group.
Dr Susan Jack, lead author and a PhD student at UOO’s Centre for International Health, said the study demonstrated potential health benefits of Sprinkles micronutrient interventions in Cambodia.
“Our findings also help build the case for Sprinkles to be used until at least 18 months of age, and preferably to age two, so that this period of greatest vulnerability to anaemia and iron deficiency can be fully covered,” said Jack.
Anaemia a big problem in developing world
Further research is planned as the intervention is rolled out through more of the country’s provinces.
Jack said anaemia represents a major public health concern in the developing and developed world as it can cause cognitive and learning difficulties and is associated with increased mortality.
In Cambodia it is estimated that 55% of children younger than five are anaemic and 40% have stunted growth.
“Iron deficiency anaemia in infants is a global health problem affecting both developed and developing countries, but has its greatest impact in poorer parts of the world.”
Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine
‘Effect of Micronutrient Sprinkles on Reducing Anemia: A Cluster-Randomized Effectiveness Trial’
Authors: Susan J Jack et al