Talking Nutrition Editors
The first 1,000 days from conception to a child’s second birthday is marked by rapid physical and mental development and requires proper nutrition in order for the individual to achieve its full potential; not only in terms of quality of life, but also schooling and future earnings.
Without access to essential nutrients during this critical period, children can be affected by compromised linear growth and psychomotor development. This can be a particular challenge among children living in poorer communities who may not have access to a healthy, balanced diet. Nutrition intervention – if applied at the right time – can help to prevent conditions caused by a lack of proper nutrition.
A recent study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition set out to better understand the impact of a nutritional intervention using a novel lipid-based nutrient supplement.
The Tswaka study involved children living in an underprivileged community in South Africa and examined the effects of two lipid-based complementary food supplements on older infants’ growth, iron status and psychomotor performance.
Cross-industry collaboration is key to improving nutritional health worldwide. The Tswaka study is an example of innovation at its best with a multi-sector partnership between DSM, the North West University of South Africa, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and Unilever.
With the aim of addressing nutrient gaps among populations most at risk of stunting, DSM and Unilever designed the two lipid-based complementary supplements to be easily added to homemade foods to encourage acceptance and intake, which received a positive response from caregivers and infants taking part in the study. In fact, ‘Tswaka’ means ‘mixing’ in the local Setsuana language.
A total of 750 children, aged between six and 12 months, from the Jouberton community in South Africa took part in the randomized controlled trial. One of two different, small quantity, complementary food supplements providing a rich source of essential lipids, protein, vitamins and minerals were added to their daily diet over six months.
The results revealed that the children who had taken the supplements had a better iron status at 12 months of age, in comparison to the control group. Those given the supplement containing, amongst other nutrients, long-chain omega-3 and omega-6 also showed positive advancements in a number of important areas, such as linear growth at age 8 and 10 months and psychomotor development at 12 months of age, a key factor in later academic performance. Additionally, the children had enhanced omega-3 fatty acid status, which is associated with healthy eye and brain development.
Omega-3 plays an essential role in overall health, as well as chronic disease management and prevention.1 In fact, a recent meta-analysis suggests that insufficient omega-3 fatty acid intake and status may increase the risk of all-cause mortality.2
The Tswaka Nutrition Intervention study is published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: ‘Testing of Two Types of Lipid-based Nutrient Supplements in South African Older Infants.’
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