Nutrient Supplements Significantly Reduce Child Deaths

More than half of child deaths worldwide stem from preventable causes, such as adverse effects from malnutrition. A new study led by researchers at the University of California, Davis, finds that child mortality significantly drops when children receive nutritional supplements rich in vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids. It found that supplements may decrease mortality among children 6-24 months old by as much as 27 percent in low- and middle-income countries. The researchers published their findings in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Nutrient supplements typically consist of a mixture of a legume — peanut, lentil or chickpea paste — plus milk powder, oil and a full complement of the vitamins and minerals children need.

Previous studies have examined how supplements given to young children improve growth, but this is the first to evaluate the impact of the supplements on childhood deaths.

“The results show supplements could have effects beyond just preventing stunting, wasting and malnutrition,” said Stewart.

Kathryn Dewey, a distinguished professor emerita in the Department of Nutrition and one of the co-authors of the study, developed the use of small-quantity lipid-based nutrient supplements along with other colleagues. “It is encouraging to see that this intervention can reduce deaths after the age of 6 months, as there are few effective strategies beyond that age,” she said.

Additional authors on the paper are Charles D. Arnold and K. Ryan Wessells, Institute for Global Nutrition at UC Davis (formerly Program in International and Community Nutrition); Per Ashorn, Tampere University, Faculty of Medicine and Health Technology, Tampere, Finland; Jean H. Humphrey, Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland; and Elodie Becquey and Lieven Huybregts, International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, D.C.

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