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J Nutr. 2012 Nov;142(11):1997-2003. doi: 10.3945/jn.111.155135. Epub 2012 Sep 26.

Iron fortification of whole wheat flour reduces iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia and increases body iron stores in Indian school-aged children.

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Division of Nutrition, St. John's Research Institute, St. John's National Academy of Health Sciences, Bangalore, India.


Wheat is the primary staple food for nearly one-third of the world's population. NaFeEDTA is the only iron (Fe) compound suitable for fortifying high extraction flours. We tested the hypothesis that NaFeEDTA-fortified, whole wheat flour reduces Fe deficiency (ID) and improves body Fe stores (BIS) and cognitive performance in Indian children. In a randomized, double-blind, controlled, school feeding trial, 6- to 15-y-old, Fe-depleted children (n = 401) were randomly assigned to either a daily wheat-based lunch meal fortified with 6 mg of Fe as NaFeEDTA or an otherwise identical unfortified control meal. Hemoglobin (Hb) and Fe status were measured at baseline, 3.5 mo, and 7 mo. Cognitive performance was evaluated at baseline and 7 mo in children (n = 170) at one of the study sites. After 7 mo, the prevalence of ID and ID anemia in the treatment group significantly decreased from 62 to 21% and 18 to 9%, respectively. There was a time x treatment interaction for Hb, serum ferritin, transferrin receptor, zinc protoporphyrin, and BIS (all P < 0.0001). Changes in BIS differed between the groups; it increased in the treatment group (0.04 ± 0.04 mmol/kg body weight) and decreased in the control group (-0.02 ± 0.04 mmol/kg body weight) (P < 0.0001). In sensory tests, NaFeEDTA-fortified flour could not be differentiated from unfortified flour. There were no significant differences in cognitive performance tests between the groups. NaFeEDTA-fortified wheat flour markedly improved BIS and reduced ID in Fe-depleted children. It may be recommended for wider use in national school feeding programs.


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