Adding Micronutrients in the Prenatal Diet can lower Child Mortality Rates

The high infant mortality rates seen in several Asian countries can be attributed to poor nutritional status of the mother and her infant.  Mal-nourishment is said to be the cause of at least 3.5 million deaths annually. Experts believe that nutritional imbalance in fetal or early life not only leads to an increased infant mortality rate but also leads to cognitive impairment and several chronic diseases as the child grows. In a recent study published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA), the researchers hypothesized that early supplementation of food and inclusion of micro-nutrients in the prenatal diet may lead to an increase in the life expectancy of the infants.

To test this hypothesis, researchers from Uppsala University, Sweden, led by Dr. Lars Ake Persson, conducted the MINIMat trial in Bangladesh. In this trial, multiple micro-nutrient supplementation (MMS) of the prenatal diet as well as early introduction of food supplements for pregnant ladies was done in order to raise their hemoglobin levels at 30 weeks of gestation. For the study, 4,436 pregnant women from Matlab, Bangladesh were included in the study during the period between November 2001 and October 2003, One third of these women were illiterate.

The women were randomly divided into 6 groups and received 30 mg of iron and 400 μg of folic acid, 60 mg of iron and 400 μg of folic acid, or MMS containing a daily allowance of 15 micronutrients, including 30 mg of iron and 400 μg of folic acid, along with food supplementation (608 kcal 6 days per week). The food supplementation was either given early (9 weeks' gestation) or at the usual time (20 weeks' gestation).

The researchers observed that with food supplementation and introduction of MMS, the adjusted hemoglobin level at 30 weeks’ gestation was 115 g/L. The 4436 pregnancies resulted in 3625 live births. Early introduction of MMS reduced the infant mortality rate from 44.1 per 1000 live births to 16.8 per 1000 live births. It also reduced the under 5-year mortality rate to 18 per 1000 live births. Introduction of MMS at 20 weeks’ gestation resulted in a high incidence of spontaneous abortions and an increase in the infant mortality rate.

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Date: 
Friday, May 18, 2012
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