University of Otago doctoral researcher Dr Susan Jack is
pictured with Cambodian mothers involved in a study to
counter iron deficiency anaemia in infants. Photo supplied.
A University of Otago-led study has highlighted the
effectiveness of adding micronutrient powder to infant food in
reducing anaemia and iron deficiencies among Cambodian infants.
Otago and Cambodian researchers conducted a randomised trial
of the effectiveness of the powder in reducing anaemia and
iron deficiencies among 3112 6-month-old infants in rural
The powder, provided in sachets, contains a blend of iron and
other micronutrients, and is easily mixed into home-prepared
Study lead author Dr Susan Jack, a medical doctor, said these
"exciting findings", recently published online in the journal
Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, were
likely to be of wider international interest, including in
other developing countries.
Iron deficiency anaemia in infants is a global health
problem, but has its greatest impact in poorer countries.
"Anaemia represents a major public health concern as it can
cause cognitive and learning difficulties and is associated
with increased mortality," Dr Jack said.
Dr Jack, who is a PhD student at Otago University's Centre
for International Health, said it was estimated in Cambodia
that 55% of children under 5 were anaemic and 40% had stunted
Infants in the study were divided into a control and
Both groups of caregivers received education about the
importance of continued breastfeeding and good complementary
Intervention group caregivers were also given micronutrient
sachets to use in daily feeding for six months.
Compared with the control group, after 12 months the
prevalence of any anaemia in the micronutrient group was
reduced by 20% and moderate anaemia by 27%.
After 12 and 18 months, iron deficiency prevalence - a risk
factor for developing anaemia - was reduced by 24% and 12%
respectively in the micronutrient group.
Childhood anaemia could have life-long effects, including by
contributing to learning difficulties, and potentially lower
This study provided "clear evidence" supporting the
introduction of the powder sachets in Cambodia and similar
settings, Dr Jack said.
The Cambodian Ministry of Health had decided to make the
powder available for children aged between 6 months and 2
"I think it's great that Otago University is contributing to
improving the lives of people in low-income countries."