Regular consumption of a complementary food fortified with ascorbic acid and ferrous fumarate or ferric pyrophosphate is as useful as ferrous sulfate in maintaining hemoglobin concentrations >105 g/L in young Bangladeshi children

Lena Davidsson, Shafiqual Alam Sarker, Kazi Asif Jamil, Shamima Sultana, Richard Hurrell
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2009, 89 (6): 1815-20

BACKGROUND: Non-water-soluble iron compounds have been reported to be less well absorbed than ferrous sulfate in young children, and concern has been raised about their usefulness as food fortificants.

OBJECTIVE: The objective was to evaluate the usefulness of ferrous fumarate and ferric pyrophosphate, compared with ferrous sulfate, in maintaining hemoglobin concentrations >105 g/L in Bangladeshi children.

DESIGN: Two hundred thirty-five children aged 7-24 mo (hemoglobin >105 g/L) were randomly assigned in a double-blind study to receive an infant cereal fortified with ferrous fumarate, ferric pyrophosphate, or ferrous sulfate. One serving of cereal (9.3 mg Fe; molar ratio of ascorbic acid to iron of 3:1) was consumed per day, 6 d/wk, for 9 mo. Blood samples were drawn at 4.5 and 9 mo.

RESULTS: Raw data were reformatted, and a "time to event" was calculated that corresponded to reaching the following thresholds: hemoglobin <105 g/L, plasma ferritin <12 microg/L, or plasma C-reactive protein >10 mg/L at baseline, 4.5 mo, or 9 mo. Data were censored when children did not reach the threshold or were lost to follow-up. A Kaplan-Meier approach was used to compare the 3 groups. No statistically significant differences were observed for hemoglobin <105 g/L (P = 0.943), plasma ferritin <12 microg/L (P = 0.601), or plasma C-reactive protein >10 mg/L (P = 0.508).

CONCLUSIONS: Contrary to earlier concerns, these results do not indicate differences in usefulness between water-soluble and non-water-soluble iron compounds in maintaining hemoglobin concentrations and preventing iron deficiency. These data will be important in the development of food-fortification strategies to combat anemia and iron deficiency in highly vulnerable population groups.

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