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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Creating Robust Complementary Foods to Prevent Infant Malnutrition

By Michael McBurney

We want to reduce the mortality rate for children under 5 years of age in half by in the next 15 years. Based on the 50% reduction achieved (from 9% to 4.6%) over the past 25 years, it is possible to save the lives of 2 million children annually.

As babies grow, exclusive breast feeding will not provide enough vitamins A, C, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, calcium and iron. By using multivitamin supplements during pregnancy and lactation, women can help reduce stunting during the first months of age. Complementary foods can provide essential nutrients during the transition from nursing to solid food.

Providing access (food security) to nutritious options (nutrition security) requires sustainable food systems.  By 2030, there will be 2 billion more people to feed. A new study provides hope. Skau and colleagues report that infant malnutrition can be overcome with fortified rice-base complementary foods sourced locally (1) OR fortified corn-soy blend products with (2) or without dried skimmed milk (3). There were no differences in primary outcomes (increments of fat-free mass or change in iron status) among the 3 treatments. Growth measurements (secondary outcome) were also similar for all 3 complementary foods. This is good news. All three products are equally efficacious.

Children must have adequate amounts of essential vitamins, minerals,  long-chain polyunsaturated omega-3 fatty acids, and essential amino acids to grow and develop. Skau and colleagues prove that a multitude of food sources can be used to prevent stunting.

Having multiple equally-beneficial complementary food options, increases the diversity of nutrient sources and strengthens the robustness of our food supply. Investments in nutrition contribute to long-term national and global health, economic productivity and stability, and societal resilience.

Main Citation

Skau JKH, Touch B, Chhoun C, Chea M, Unni US, Makurat J, Filteau S, Wieringa FT, Dijkhuizen MA, Ritz C, Wells JC, Berger J, Friis H, Michaelsen KF, Roos N. Effects of animal source food and micronutrient fortification in complementary food products on body composition, iron status, and linear growth: a randomized trial in Cambodia. 2015 Am J Clin Nutr doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114/084889

Other Citations

Vossenaar M, Hernandez L, Campos R, Solomons NW. Maternal nutrition, infants and children: Several ‘problem nutrients’ are identified in complementary feeding of Guatemalan infants with continued breastfeeding using the concept of ‘critical nutrient density’.  2013 Eur J Clin Nutr doi:10.1038/ejcn.2012.17

Roberfroid D, Huybregts L, Lanou H, Ouedraogo L, Henry M-C, Meda N, Kolsteren P for the MISAME study group. Impact of prenatal multiple micronutrients on survival and growth during infancy: a randomized controlled trial. 2012 Am J Clin Nutr doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.029033

Peter S, Eggersdorfer M, van Asselt D, Buskens E, Detzel P, Freijer K, Koletzko B, Kraemer K, Kuipers F, Neufeld L, Obeid R, Wieser S, Zitterman A, Weber P. Selected nutrients and their implications for health and disease across the lifespan: A roadmap. 2014 Nutrients doi: 10.3390/nu6126076