BACKGROUND: Fortification with multiple micronutrients has been shown to improve growth and cognitive performance among children in developing countries, but it is unknown whether higher concentrations are more effective than lower concentrations.

OBJECTIVE: We compared the effect of 2 different concentrations of a combination of micronutrients and n-3 (omega-3) fatty acids on indicators of growth and cognitive performance in low-income, marginally nourished schoolchildren in Bangalore, India.

DESIGN: In a 2-by-2 factorial, double-blind, randomized controlled trial, 598 children aged 6-10 y were individually allocated to 1 of 4 intervention groups to receive foods fortified with either 100% or 15% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance of micronutrients in combination with either 900 mg alpha-linolenic acid plus 100 mg docosahexaenoic acid or 140 mg alpha-linolenic acid for 12 mo. Anthropometric and biochemical assessments were performed at baseline and 12 mo. Cognitive performance was measured at baseline and at 6 and 12 mo.

RESULTS: The high micronutrient treatment significantly improved linear growth at 12 mo (0.19 cm; 0.01, 0.36) and short-term memory at 6 mo (0.11 SD; 0.01, 0.20) and was less beneficial on fluid reasoning at 6 (-0.10 SD; -0.17, -0.03) and 12 (-0.12 SD; -0.20, -0.04) mo than was the low micronutrient treatment, whereas no differences were observed on weight, retrieval ability, cognitive speediness, and overall cognitive performance. No significant differences were found between the n-3 treatments.

CONCLUSIONS: The high micronutrient treatment was more beneficial for linear growth than was the low micronutrient treatment. However, with some small differential effects, higher micronutrient concentrations were as effective as lower concentrations on cognitive performance.

PMID 19369376

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