Can improved complementary foods prevent anemia without added micronutrients?

June 2010

The June issue of Public Health Nutrition reported that researchers presented the impact of two different food interventions on anemia among children ages 6-24 months in Burkina Faso. Two groups of children were fed, under supervision, an improved gruel processed to reduce its phytate content. The gruel was comprised of roasted millet and beans, peanuts, traditionally fermented sorghum, soumbala (a fermented condiment made from the seeds of the locust bean tree), sucrose, and iodized salt. For one of the groups, investigators also provided the children’s mothers with a capsule containing an iron, zinc, vitamin A, iodine, and ascorbic acid premix to add to the gruel. Children in both groups were treated for malaria and helminths. 

After six months, mean hemoglobin concentration had increased significantly in both groups but not differently between them. The authors speculated that they did not observe treatment differences either because (a) the phytate-reducing processing procedures were ineffective and the gruel altered the bioavailability of the minerals in it, or (b) the procedures indeed were effective, and due to the diverse micronutrient sources available from the cereal/legume mix and the incorporation of iron-rich soumbala, the improved gruel provided sufficient micronutrients and rendered superfluous the micronutrients from the premix. They concluded that improving gruel made with locally available ingredients may be a useful intervention for improving hemoglobin status.

Effect of an improved local ingredient-based complementary food fortified or not with iron and selected multiple micronutrients on Hb concentration