Nutrient powder may fight anemia in kids

Sep 7, 2011, 1:27 p.m.

The researchers also couldn't definitively address the worry that giving kids in high-malaria areas extra iron may increase their risk of infection (the parasite needs iron to grow).

"There is a huge controversy," de Regil told Reuters Health. "A possible side effect of iron supplements given very frequently is to increase the risk of malaria in some places."

In 2008, malaria caused close to one million deaths, mostly in African kids, according to the WHO.

Regarding the nutrient powder, de Regil said that "it's still a concern, but we didn't find evidence that in (high-malaria) settings it doesn't work or it is harmful."

Based on the current findings, the WHO has updated its guidelines on nutrient supplementation in young children, which now state, "Home fortification of foods with multiple micronutrient powders is recommended to improve iron status and reduce anemia among infants and children 6 - 23 months of age."

The authors note that the nutrient powder packets are convenient and could also be used in schools or refugee camps, for example. They are currently looking at their effect in older, school-age kids.

Menon told Reuters Health that the nutrient powders typically run about $2 for a 2-month supply, and that more research is needed to figure out the best way to provide them to parents in low-income countries, including whether powder packets should be given out for free by the government.

For now, the new review suggests that the powder "is a promising innovation to address childhood anemia," said Menon, who did not participate in the study. "Any innovations that take us closer to solving the problem are more than welcome."

SOURCE: http://bit.ly/nyZysy The Cochrane Library, September 6, 2011.

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