Fortified milk linked to healthier child development

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Iron deficiency anemia, Hemoglobin

A Fonterra funded study suggests that milk fortified with micronutrients, especially zinc and iron, can be an effective tool to alleviate nutrition deficiencies among young children.

Stunted growth and other health problems are associated with deficiency of essential micronutrients, especially in low income countries. Fortification, even on a national level, has been advanced as a potential strategy to fight such malnutrition.

Writing in the PLoS ONE journal, scientists from Johns Hopkins University in the US and Annamalai University in India sought to evaluate the potential health benefits of fortified milk in a randomised double-blind trial, carried out in a community on the outskirts of New Delhi, India.

A total of 633 children aged 1 to 4 years took part in the study and were split into a group that drank fortified milk and another that drank a control milk. The fortified milk contained zinc, iron, selenium, copper, vitamin A and vitamin C.

The children were given three servings a day over the course of a year and their progress on certain health parameters was measured.

Results

Compared to children in the control group, the scientists said the children who drank the fortified milk showed significant improvement in weight gain (difference of mean: 0.21 kg/year; 95 per cent confidence interval [CI] 0.12 to 0.31, p<0.001) and height gain (difference of mean: 0.51 cm/year; 95 per cent CI 0.27 to 0.75, p<0.001).

Improvements were also observed in levels of mean hemoglobin (Hb) (difference of 13.6 g/L; 95 per cent CI 11.1 to 16.0, p<0.001) and serum ferritin levels (difference of 7.9 µg/L; 95 per cent CI 5.4 to 10.5, p<0.001) also improved. And finally, children in the fortified group had an 88 per cent lower risk of iron deficiency anemia.

Implications

The scientists concluded that milk provides an effective vehicle for delivering specific micronutrients, especially zinc and iron. They added that fortification “provides a potential strategy for achieving Millennium Development Goals targeted for reduction in mortality, morbidity and malnutrition among children.

“Further investigation of the effectiveness of the micronutrient-fortified milk is warranted, including cost-effectiveness before any program recommendation can be made.”

The study was supported with grants from Fonterra Brands, who also supplied the milks, although the authors said they had no role in study design, data collection or analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript.

Source: PLoS ONE
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012167
Micronutrient Fortified Milk Improves Iron Status, Anemia and Growth among Children 1–4 Years: A Double Masked, Randomized, Controlled Trial
Authors: Sazawal S, Dhingra U, Dhingra P, Hiremath G, Sarkar A

Related topics: Dairy Health Check, R&D, Fresh Milk

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