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Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Jul;90(1):132-40. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2008.27368. Epub 2009 May 27.

Antenatal supplementation with folic acid + iron + zinc improves linear growth and reduces peripheral adiposity in school-age children in rural Nepal.

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  • 1Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.



We previously reported that a randomized controlled trial of antenatal micronutrient supplements in rural Nepal decreased the risk of low birth weight by approximately 15%.


The objective was to examine the effects of micronutrient supplementation on growth and body composition in children of supplemented mothers through school age.


Mothers received 1 of 5 micronutrient supplements daily: folic acid, folic acid + iron, folic acid + iron + zinc, multiple micronutrients, or a control. All of the supplements contained vitamin A. Children born during this trial were revisited at age 6-8 y to measure height, weight, midupper arm circumference, waist circumference, and triceps and subscapular skinfold thicknesses. Arm fat and muscle area were estimated by using standard formulas, and height-for-age, weight-for-age, and body mass index-for-age z scores were calculated by using the World Health Organization growth standard.


Of the 3771 surviving children, 3324 were revisited and consented to anthropometric measurements. Maternal supplementation with folic acid + iron + zinc resulted in an increase in mean height (0.64 cm; 95% CI: 0.04, 1.25) and a reduction in mean triceps skinfold thickness (-0.25 mm; 95% CI: -0.44, -0.06), subscapular skinfold thickness (-0.20 mm; 95% CI: -0.33, -0.06), and arm fat area (-0.18 cm(2); -0.34, -0.01). No significant differences were found between groups in mean weight or body mass index-for-age z scores, waist circumference, or arm muscle area. Other micronutrient combinations including a multiple micronutrient formulation failed to show a growth benefit.


Antenatal supplementation with zinc may benefit child growth, particularly in areas where a deficiency of this nutrient is common.

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