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J Nutr. 2010 Jul;140(7):1317-21. doi: 10.3945/jn.109.119925. Epub 2010 May 19.

Daily supplementation with iron plus folic acid, zinc, and their combination is not associated with younger age at first walking unassisted in malnourished preschool children from a deficient population in rural Nepal.

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  • 1Department of International Health and; 6Department of Epidemiology, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.


A community-based, cluster-randomized, placebo-controlled trial of daily zinc and/or iron+folic acid supplementation was conducted in rural southern Nepal to examine motor milestone attainment among 3264 children 1-36 mo of age between 2001 and 2006. Treatment groups included placebo, zinc (10 mg), iron+folic acid (12.5 mg iron + 50 microg folic acid), and zinc+iron+folic acid (10 mg zinc + 12.5 mg iron + 50 microg folic acid). Infants received half of these doses. The iron arms were stopped November 2003 by recommendation of the Data Safety and Monitoring Board; zinc and placebo continued until January 2006. A total of 2457 children had not walked at the time of entry into the trial and 1775 were followed through 36 mo. Mean age at first walking unassisted did not differ among groups and was 444 +/- 81 d (mean +/- SD) in the placebo group, 444 +/- 81 d in the zinc group, 464 +/- 85 d in the iron+folic acid group, and 446 +/- 87 d in the iron+folic acid+zinc group. Results were similar after adjustment for age at enrollment, asset ownership, maternal literacy, and prior child deaths in the household and in children who consumed at least 60 tablets. Compared with placebo, iron+folic acid was associated with an adjusted mean delay of 28.0 d (95% CI: 11.3, 44.7) in time to walking among infants and the delay was more pronounced with mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) < 9.5 cm [60.6 d, (95% CI: 28.5, 92.6)]. Risks and benefits of universal iron+folic acid supplementation of infants beyond improved hematologic status deserve further consideration.

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