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J Nutr. 2000 Nov;130(11):2697-702.

Daily iron supplementation is more effective than twice weekly iron supplementation in pregnant women in Pakistan in a randomized double-blind clinical trial.

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Health Services Academy, West Blue Area, Islamabad, Pakistan.


In the context of limited effectiveness of iron supplementation programs, intermittent iron supplementation is currently under debate as a possible alternative strategy that may enhance the effectiveness of operational programs. This field-based trial assessed the outcome of twice weekly iron supplementation compared to daily in Pakistan. A double-blind, randomized, clinical trial was conducted in Northern Pakistan. Anemic pregnant women (n = 191) were assigned to receive daily (200 mg ferrous sulfate) or twice weekly (2 x 200 mg ferrous sulfate) iron supplementation. Hemoglobin was measured at baseline and at 4-wk intervals for up to 12 wk. Serum ferritin was measured at baseline and 8 or 12 wk. Analysis was by intention to treat. The two groups did not differ in age, parity, sociodemographic characteristics, hemoglobin or serum ferritin concentrations at baseline. Women who received iron daily had a greater rise in hemoglobin compared with women who received iron twice weekly (17.8 +/- 1.8 vs. 3.8 +/- 1.2 g/L, P < 0.001). The serum ferritin concentrations increased by 17.7 +/- 3.9 microgram/L (P < 0.001) in the daily supplemented group and did not change in the twice weekly group. Daily iron supplementation remained superior to twice weekly supplementation after controlling initial hemoglobin Z-scores and duration of treatment. The body mass index (BMI) modified the effect of daily versus twice weekly iron supplementation. For every unit increase in BMI, the difference between the two treatment groups was reduced by 0.0014 (final hemoglobin Z-score; P = 0.027). We recommend continuation of daily iron supplementation as opposed to intermittent iron supplementation in pregnant women in developing countries.

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