Effect of fortified complementary food supplementation on child growth in rural Bangladesh: a cluster-randomized trial

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Background: Growth faltering in the first 2 years of life is high in South Asia where prevalence of stunting is estimated at 40–50%. Although nutrition counselling has shown modest benefits, few intervention trials of food supplementation exist showing improvements in growth and prevention of stunting.

Methods: A cluster-randomized controlled trial was conducted in rural Bangladesh to test the effect of two local, ready-to-use foods (chickpea and rice-lentil based) and a fortified blended food (wheat-soy-blend++, WSB++) compared with Plumpy’doz, all with nutrition counselling vs nutrition counselling alone (control) on outcomes of linear growth (length and length-for-age z-score, LAZ), stunting (LAZ < −2), weight-for-length z-score (WLZ) and wasting (WLZ < −2) in children 6–18 months of age. Children ( n  = 5536) were enrolled at 6 months of age and, in the food groups, provided with one of the allocated supplements daily for a year.

Results: Growth deceleration occurred from 6 to 18 months of age but deceleration in LAZ was lower (by 0.02–0.04/month) in the Plumpy’doz ( P  = 0.02), rice-lentil (< 0.01), and chickpea (< 0.01) groups relative to control, whereas WLZ decline was lower only in Plumpy’doz and chickpea groups. WSB++ did not impact on these outcomes. The prevalence of stunting was 44% at 18 months in the control group, but lower by 5–6% ( P  ≤ 0.01) in those receiving Plumpy’doz and chickpea. Mean length and LAZ at 18 months were higher by 0.27–0.30 cm and 0.07–0.10 (all P  < 0.05), respectively, in all four food groups relative to the control.

Conclusions: In rural Bangladesh, small amounts of daily fortified complementary foods, provided for a year in addition to nutrition counselling, modestly increased linear growth and reduced stunting at 18 months of age.

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