Study completed in Ghana by UC Davis researchers shows that infants who consumed a fat-based nutrient supplement from 6 to 12 months of age showed no deficit in growth or motor development

Photo - Kathyrn Dewy and Seth Adu-Afarwuah

Recent graduate of the UC Davis Graduate Group in Nutritional Biology Ph.D. Program, Dr. Seth Adu-Afarwuah (front row, second from right in photo at right) and Nutrition Department faculty member Dr. Kathryn Dewey (front row, third from right) have completed a study in Ghana that showed that infants who consumed Nutributter, a fat-based nutrient supplement, showed no deficit in either growth rate or gross motor development compared to international standards. Doctors Dewey and Adu-Afarwuah are shown at right with the study´s research staff in Ghana.

Photo - A nine month old child is weighed at her home

In Ghana, UC Davis researchers conducted a randomized controlled trial of approximately 400 infants in 4 groups. One group received 20 g/day (108 kcal/day) of a fat-based nutrient supplement called "Nutributter", added daily to complementary foods given to children between 6 and 12 months of age. Results for this group were compared with those for groups who received daily a multiple micronutrient powder, a crushable multiple micronutrient tablet, or no intervention during the same period. Iron status and prevalence of anemia were improved in all three of the intervention groups, but only in the Nutributter group was there an impact on growth. In that group, there was no faltering in length gain between 6 and 12 months, whereas in the other groups there was the typical decline in relative length-for-age compared to WHO growth standards that one sees in most developing country populations.

Photo - Dr. Adu-Afarwuah explains details of the study to a mother

The statistical analysis suggested that the effect on growth was largely due to the essential fatty acids provided by the Nutributter, not to increased calories. Motor development of the infants was assessed at 12 months. In the non-intervention control group, only 25% of the infants were able to walk independently at that age, which is half of what would be expected in a healthy population (50% should be walking at 12 months) and indicative of developmental delay in the general population. In all three intervention groups, there was a significant improvement in this outcome, but the percentage able to walk at 12 months was higher in the Nutributter group (49%) than in the two groups that received the micronutrient powder (39%) or tablet (36%). Thus, the Nutributter group showed no deficit in either growth or gross motor development compared to international standards, which is a remarkable outcome.

Results from the study were recently published in an article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition titled "Randomized comparison of 3 types of micronutrient supplements for home fortification of complementary foods in Ghana: effects on growth and motor development." Dr. Adu-Afarwuah now works as a Nutrition Specialist with UNICEF-Ghana, supporting the UNICEF Nutrition Officers in the planning and implementation of nutrition intervention activities in Ghana. His research interests include the development and evaluation of low cost interventions to improve nutrition and health of infants and children in low income populations.

Contact for more information:

Kathryn G. Dewey, Nutrition Department, (530) 752-0851, kgdewey@ucdavis.edu