Adequate intake of macro- and micronutrients is crucial for proper brain growth and development in children. The Rang-Din Nutrition Study revealed that home fortification had positive effects on motor and language development in children, whereas no effect on personal-social development and executive functions.
Adequate nutrient intake, including macronutrients (like proteins and poly-unsaturated fatty acids) and micronutrients (like iron and folate), is important for proper brain growth and development, especially in the early months of life. Home fortification is the addition of specialized products, like multiple micronutrient powders (MNP) or lipid-based nutrient supplements (LNS), into home prepared foods. Home fortification ensures that children get the appropriate nutrients, in the right amounts, to allow proper development and function. Previous studies have demonstrated that home fortification is associated with improved language, motor, and personal-social development. Identifying fortification products that positively affect child development could initiate larger efforts to ensure that all children receive the nutrients they need.
In a recent article, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers conducted the community-based, cluster-randomized Rang-Din Nutrition Study (RDNS) to evaluate the effectiveness of home fortification on child development. The study included a total of 3,664 participants from eleven different regions in rural Bangladesh. Participants, including mother and child, were randomly assigned into one of four different groups including the LNS-LNS group, IFA-LNS group, IFA-MNP group, and the IFA-control group. Women in the LNS-LNS group received LNS during pregnancy and first six months postpartum, while their children received LNS from 6 to 24 months of age. Women in the IFA-LNS and IFA-MNP group received IFA (combination of iron and folate) during pregnancy and three months postpartum, whereas their children received either LNS or MNP from 6 to 24 months of age, respectively. In the control group, women received IFA, while children were given no supplementation. At 12, 18, and 24 months of age, children’s motor, language, and personal-social development was tested.
The study revealed that at 12 months of age, a higher percentage of children in the LNS-LNS, IFA-LNS, and IFA-MNP groups could walk without assistance, in comparison to the IFA-control group.Furthermore, at 18 months, LNS-LNS group had higher scores than LNS-control group in language comprehension. At 24 months, however, children in IFA-LNS and IFA-MNP groups also had higher scores for comprehensive language than LNS-control group. No difference was observed at 12 months of age in language comprehension, probably because language acquisition is only being developed at this stage of life. Additionally, no differences were observed between the groups for expressive language development within the first 18 months of age. At 24 months, however, LNS-LNS and IFA-MNP demonstrated higher scores than IFA-control group. The study also revealed that there was no difference in personal-social development and executive function between the different groups at the ages investigated.
The RDNS revealed that all three interventions demonstrated positive effects on child development during the first 24 months of life. Fortification was particularly effective for motor and language development, whereas no consistent effects were observed on personal-social development and executive functions. Both LNS and MNP fortifications had positive effects on motor and language development, indicating that a common nutrient in these products could be playing a vital role in child development. Further studies are warranted to identify which nutrients are the most important for proper development. This information can further be utilized in implementing nation-wide recommendations to ensure proper nutrient intake in children at early stages of life.
Written By: Haisam Shah BSc