Relative efficacy of micronutrient powders versus iron-folic acid tablets in controlling anemia in women in the second trimester of pregnancy

Nuzhat Choudhury, Ashley Aimone, S M Ziauddin Hyder, Stanley H Zlotkin
Food and Nutrition Bulletin 2012, 33 (2): 142-9

BACKGROUND: Iron deficiency is a major cause of anemia and the most prevalent nutrient deficiency among pregnant women in developing countries. The use of iron and folic acid supplements to treat and prevent iron-deficiency anemia has limited effectiveness, mainly due to poor adherence. Home fortification with a micronutrient powder for pregnant women may be an effective and acceptable alternative to traditional drug models.

OBJECTIVE: To determine whether home fortification with micronutrient powders is at least as efficacious as iron and folic acid tablets for improving hemoglobin concentration in pregnant women.

METHODS: A cluster-randomized noninferiority trial was conducted in the rural subdistrict of Kaliganj in central Bangladesh. Pregnant women (gestational age 14-22 weeks, n=478), were recruited from 42 community-based Antenatal Care Centres. Each centre was randomly allocated to receive either a micronutrient powder (containing iron,folic acid, vitamin C, and zinc) or iron and folic acid tablets. Changes in hemoglobin from baseline were compared across groups using a linear mixed-effects regression model.

RESULTS: At enrolment, the overall prevalence of anemia was 45% (n = 213/478). After the intervention period, the mean hemoglobin concentrations among women receiving the micronutrient powder were not inferior to those among women receiving tablets (109.5 ± 12.9 vs. 112.0 ± 11.2 g/L; 95% CI, -0.757 to 5.716). Adherence to the micronutrient powder was lower than adherence to tablets (57.5 ± 22.5% vs. 76.0 ± 13.7%; 95% CI, -22.39 to -12.94); however, in both groups, increased adherence was positively correlated with hemoglobin concentration.

CONCLUSIONS: The micronutrient powder was at least as efficacious as the iron and folic acid tablets in controlling moderate to severe anemia during pregnancy.

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