The Association between Complementary Foods and Hemoglobin Concentrations in Indian Infants

Editor(s): A.Prieto-Patron, Z. V.Hutton, P.Garg, S.Rao, A. L.Eldridge & P.Detzel.

The aim of this study was to identify which complimentary food groups correlate with hemoglobin (a commonly used indicator for iron deficiency anemia) in Indian infants during the critical period of 6-23 months based on data from the Indian National Family Health Survey 2005-2006 (NFHS-3). “Fortified baby food”, “breast milk” and “infant formula” showed positive and statistically-significant associations with hemoglobin concentrations, as well as “fruits and vegetables” to a lesser extent. On the contrary, “porridge or gruel”, “dried beans, peas, lentils and nuts”, “bread, rice, noodles” and “milk and dairy products” had a significant negative association with hemoglobin levels. Infants between 12-17 months of age had the highest rates of moderate or severe anemia compared to those aged 6-11 or 18-23 months. The analysis also shows that consumers of commercially fortified baby food had hemoglobin levels above the 100g/l threshold between the age of 6 and 23 months, unlike those who responded consuming porridge or gruel. Population, health and nutrition survey data as collected in the NFHS-3 in India are consistent with systematic reviews, that fortified complementary foods can be considered as effective nutritional interventions to address anemia in infants aged 6-23 months.