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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Working To Meet Nutrient Gaps in Children

By Rachel Murphy

Children have the greatest risk of malnutrition because of the demand for growth and development.  In addition to macronutrients (fats, carbohydrates and proteins), essential nutrients (vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids) are needed to support healthy growth, development and well-being.  The question is: are children getting enough nutrients in their diet?   


The answer is often no in developing areas of the world as studies in Bangladesh and Vietnam have shown.  Recently, a team of researchers tested whether linear programming: a technique which tests whether micronutrient requirements can be met using local unfortified foods.  Fahmida and colleagues conducted a community-intervention trial in children aged 9 to 16 months in Indonesia.  A group of 239 children were assigned to the intervention group; mothers were given information on foods and cooking training that could help increase intake of key problem nutrients (calcium, iron, niacin, and zinc).  A second group of 216 children did not receive the intervention.   


After 6 months, children in the intervention group had  significantly higher intakes of calcium, iron, niacin and zinc.  However, the level of improvement was small and each of these nutrients was still below recommended levels.  The authors conclude that other strategies are needed to help children meet their nutrient gaps “home fortification, formulated or fortified complementary foods, and fortified staple foods” are suggested. 


Although the focus of this blog was developing countries, regular readers of Talking Nutrition know that nutrient gaps are prevalent in children (and adults) within the United States as well.   The study by Fahmida and colleagues adds to the body of literature that shows the need for and the benefit of food fortification on public health around the world.  


Main Citation

Fahmida U et al. Effectiveness of improving knowledge, practices, and intakes of “key problem nutrients” of a complementary feeding intervention developed by using linear programming: experience in Lombok, Indonesia”.  Am J Clin Nutr 2015, doi:10.3945/ajcn.114.092585


Other Citations

West KP et al. Effect of maternal multiple micronutrient vs iron-folic acid supplementation on infant mortality and adverse birth outcomes in rural Bangladesh The JiVitA-3 Randomized Trial.  JAMA 2014, doi:10.1001/jama.2014.16819


Dai Thu B et al. Effect of daily and weekly micronutrient supplementation on micronutrient deficiencies and growth in young Vietnamese children.  Am J Clin Nutr 1999, 69(1):80-86