Syst Rev. 2013 Aug 23;2(1):67.
Das JK, Salam RA, Kumar R, Bhutta ZA.
BACKGROUND: Vitamins and minerals are essential for growth and metabolism. The World Health Organization estimates that more than 2 billion people are deficient in key vitamins and minerals. Groups most vulnerable to these micronutrient deficiencies are pregnant and lactating women and young children, given their increased demands. Food fortification is one of the strategies that has been used safely and effectively to prevent vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
METHODS: A comprehensive search was done to identify all available evidence for the impact of fortification interventions. Studies were included if food was fortified with a single, dual or multiple micronutrients and impact of fortification was analyzed on the health outcomes and relevant biochemical indicators of women and children. We performed a meta-analysis of outcomes using Review Manager Software version 5.1.
RESULTS: Our systematic review identified 203 studies that we reviewed for outcomes of relevance. Fortification for children showed significant impacts on increasing serum micronutrient concentrations. Hematologic markers also improved, including hemoglobin concentrations, which showed a significant rise when food was fortified with vitamin A, iron and multiple micronutrients. Fortification with zinc had no significant adverse impact on hemoglobin levels. Multiple micronutrient fortification showed non-significant impacts on height for age, weight for age and weight for height Z-scores, although they showed positive trends. The results for fortification in women showed that calcium and vitamin D fortification had significant impacts in the post-menopausal age group. Iron fortification led to a significant increase in serum ferritin and hemoglobin levels in women of reproductive age and pregnant women. Folate fortification significantly reduced the incidence of congenital abnormalities like neural tube defects without increasing the incidence of twinning. The number of studies pooled for zinc and multiple micronutrients for women were few, though the evidence suggested benefit. There was a dearth of evidence for the impact of fortification strategies on morbidity and mortality outcomes in women and children.
CONCLUSION: Fortification is potentially an effective strategy but evidence from the developing world is scarce. Programs need to assess the direct impact of fortification on morbidity and mortality.
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