Background: Nutritional supplements are an important source of complementary food for young children, since they may either complement or substitute nutrients obtained from other food sources. Assessing how the introduction of different types of supplements modifies the consumption of other food sources may help in designing supplementation programs that aim to improve the nutrition of vulnerable populations.
Objective: The objective is to quantify dietary energy and nutrient intake among children aged 6–12 months who received one of three nutritional supplements.
Methods: A cluster-randomized trial was conducted from 2005 to 2007. Urban communities were randomly allocated to one of three intervention groups receiving one of the following: a milk-based fortified food, micronutrient powders, or syrup. Each supplement was fortified with equal amounts of micronutrients. Dietary intake was estimated using a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ) to reflect the average consumption over the month prior to the interview. Children between 6 and 12 months of age were recruited. Median regression was performed with adjusted standard errors for clustered data, and the linear predictors for the median included the study group, study stage and their interaction. Adjusted medians by study group and study stage were obtained as post-estimations.
Results: No statistically significant differences between study groups were observed at baseline. After four months of supplementation, the children in the fortified food group had a smaller increase in median dietary energy (183.7 kcal, CI95%: 59.9, 307.5) and dietary protein (6.6 g, CI95%: 2.6, 10.6) intake from their home diet than those in the syrup group (p < 0.05). These differences remained significant after adjusting for group differences at baseline. Regarding covariate-adjusted median changes from baseline to follow-up at 10 months, the children in the fortified food group had a smaller median increase in dietary energy intake than those in the syrup group (698 vs 915 kcal), with a difference of 217.9 kcal (CI95%: 20.4, 415.4).
Conclusion: Children in the fortified food group consumed less dietary energy, protein, and micronutrients than those in the micronutrient powder and syrup groups. It is possible that absolute nutrient intake may be overestimated by the FFQ, but this possibility does not compromise the ability to compare study groups. Given the observed differences in dietary energy consumption among the three supplemented groups, it can be concluded that supplementation with micronutrient powders is an adequate option for urban children who have met their minimum energy and protein requirements.