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J Nutr. 2006 Sep;136(9):2427-34.

Combined iron and folic acid supplementation with or without zinc reduces time to walking unassisted among Zanzibari infants 5- to 11-mo old.

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  • 1U.S. Department of Agriculture, ARS-Western Human Nutrition Research Center, Davis, CA, USA.


Iron and zinc deficiencies have been associated with delayed motor development in nutritionally at-risk children, albeit inconsistently. In this community-based, randomized double-blind trial, iron+folic acid (FeFA) (12.5 mg Fe + 50 mug folic acid), zinc (Zn) (10 mg), and iron+folic acid+zinc (FeFA+Zn) supplements or a placebo were given daily for 1 y to nutritionally at-risk children in Pemba, Zanzibar. The effects of these treatments on attaining unassisted walking were evaluated using survival analysis for 354 children aged 5-11 mo at the start of supplementation. Treatment effects on changes in hemoglobin (Hb) and zinc protoporphyrin (ZPP) and height-for-age (HAZ) and weight-for-age (WAZ) Z scores were evaluated using linear regression. Attained motor milestone was recorded every 2 wk for 1 y. Hb, ZPP, HAZ, and WAZ were measured at baseline and after 6 mo of treatment. FeFA with or without Zn reduced the time it took for children to walk assisted. Children who received any iron walked unassisted sooner than those who received no iron [median difference approximately 15 d, P = 0.035, risk ratio (RR) = 1.28, 95% CI = 1.02, 1.61] and this effect was stronger in those who had iron deficiency anemia (IDA) at baseline (median difference was approximately 30 d; P = 0.002; RR = 1.68; 95% CI = 1.21, 2.32). FeFA alone and Zn alone improved Hb and ZPP compared with placebo. There were no significant treatment effects on changes in HAZ or WAZ. The effects of treatment on time to walking may have been mediated by improvements in iron status or hemoglobin, but were not mediated through improvements in growth.

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