Double-blind, placebo-controlled trial comparing effects of supplementation of two micronutrient sprinkles on fatty acid status in Cambodian infants

Carlo Agostoni, Marcello Giovannini, Debora Sala, Michele Usuelli, Luca Livio, Gaia Francescato, Marta Braga, Enrica Riva, Antonella Martiello, Claudio Colombo, Franca Marangoni, Claudio Galli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Infants in developing countries require early dietary interventions to prevent nutritional deficiencies, above all protein, energy, iron and zinc. To what extent these interventions may affect the fatty acid (FA) status is still unknown. OBJECTIVES: To examine and compare the effects of 2 micronutrient "sprinkles" supplementations (iron 12.5 mg + folic acid 150 μg, iron/folate and iron 12.5 mg + folic acid 150 μg + zinc 5 mg + vitamins A, C and D3, mineral/micronutrient [MMN]) versus placebo on the FA status of Cambodian infants. METHODS: A total of 204 infants age 6 mo and living in Kompong Chhnang Province, Cambodia, were randomly assigned to receive daily supplementation of MMN (n = 68) and iron/folate (n = 68) or placebo (n = 68) for a 12-mo period in powder form as sprinkles. At the end of the intervention period, FAs in the range of 16 to 24 C were determined in blood drops absorbed on a strip collected from 182 subjects, and values among the 3 intervention subgroups and those of 21 Italian 18-mo-old, normal-growing infants as the reference group were compared. RESULTS: At the end of the supplementation trial, higher levels of the 2 essential FAs (EFAs) (linoleic acid, 18:2n-6, and α-linolenic acid, 18:3n-3) were found in the MMN group. No differences occurred for the major longer chain derivatives of both EFAs arachidonic acid (20:4n-6) and docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3). In MMN supplemented Cambodians, blood levels of linoleic acid approached those of Italian infants, and in addition their α-linolenic acid levels were improved. Cambodian infants, mostly still breast-fed through the second year of life, showed significantly higher levels of long-chain derivatives of both the n-6 and the n-3 series compared with Italians. CONCLUSIONS: Supplementation with iron, folic acid, zinc and vitamins was associated with an increase of linoleic acid and α-linolenic acid levels in Cambodian infants versus placebo, without significant changes in the concentrations of their longer chain derivatives, resulting in a FA status closer to Italian counterparts for the essential polyunsaturated FA levels. The iron/folate-treated infants showed no differences compared with the other 2 groups. Studies are needed to differentiate the potential effects of the supplemented micronutrients on the FA status.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-142
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2007


  • Essential fatty acids
  • Iron
  • Linoleic acid
  • Micronutrient supplementation
  • Zinc

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gastroenterology
  • Histology
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Food Science
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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