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Impact of iron and zinc supplements on temperament and eating behaviours of young children

Posted:  Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Influence of micronutrient supplementation on the children’s temperament and eating behaviours

Iron deficiency is known to cause tiredness, lowered mood, and poor concentration and perception in children. Higher zinc levels are associated with increased activity levels in children. A study published in the journal PloS One evaluated the effects of zinc and iron supplementation on the temperament and eating behaviours of infants and toddlers from Nepal.

The randomised control study enrolled 569 children aged 4–17 months. The children were randomly allocated to receive either sugar placebo; or 12.5 mg iron and 50 μg folic acid; or 10 mg zinc; or a combination of 10 mg zinc plus 12.5 mg iron and 50 μg folic acid supplements on a daily basis. The children were followed-up for a period of 1 year. Questionnaires were given to the mothers initially and during the four follow-up visits.

Information on demographic attributes (infant’s age, gender, caste, and parent’s education background), temperament, and eating behaviours of the children were collected. The temperament of the child was assessed by assigning a score of 0 to 12, where lower scores indicated an easier temperament. The eating behaviour of the child was assessed by assigning a score of 0 to 9, where lower scores indicated better eating behaviour.

The age, gender, and parents’ literacy levels were similar across the treatment groups. Changes in the scores received for temperament and eating behaviours between the 1st and 5th visits were similar for the zinc and non-zinc groups. In children receiving zinc, the temperament score increased by 0.16 points, and for children not receiving any zinc, the scores decreased by 0.08 points. For children receiving iron–folic acid supplements, the scores for temperament increased by 0.37 points from the 1st to 5th visit. For children receiving zinc, a decrease in the eating behaviour score between visit 1 and 5 was 0.92 points compared to 1.29 for those not receiving zinc. However, children with iron-deficiency anaemia had remarkably lower scores for eating behaviours after they were administered zinc.

The study was undertaken for a short duration. The supplementation time coincided with the age of the children during which they usually develop micro nutrition deficiencies particularly iron deficiency. In conclusion, there was no significant difference between the zinc and non-zinc groups or between the iron and non-iron groups in mean temperament scores between visits 1 and 5. Supplementing zinc in anaemic children improved their eating behaviour. Further research is needed to substantiate these findings in children of different age groups and with different micronutrient profiles.

News source - Surkan PJ, Charles MK, Katz J, Siegel EH, Khatry SK, LeClerq SC, Stoltzfus RJ, Tielsch JM. The Role of Zinc and Iron-Folic Acid Supplementation on Early Child Temperament and Eating Behaviors in Rural Nepal: A Randomized Controlled Trial. PloS one. 2015 Mar 30;10 (3):e0114266.