Background: Deficiencies of iron, iodine, and vitamin A are prevalent worldwide and can affect the mental development and learning ability of schoolchildren.
Objective: The aim of this study was to determine the effect of micronutrient-fortified biscuits on the micronutrient status of primary school children.
Design: Micronutrient status was assessed in 115 children aged 6–11 y before and after consumption of biscuits (fortified with iron, iodine, and β-carotene) for 43 wk over a 12-mo period and was compared with that in a control group (n = 113) who consumed nonfortified biscuits. Cognitive function, growth, and morbidity were assessed as secondary outcomes.
Results: There was a significant between-group treatment effect on serum retinol, serum ferritin, serum iron, transferrin saturation, and urinary iodine (P < 0.0001) and in hemoglobin and hematocrit (P < 0.05). The prevalence of low serum retinol concentrations (<0.70 μmol/L) decreased from 39.1% to 12.2%, of low serum ferritin concentrations (<20 μg/L) from 27.8% to 13.9%, of anemia (hemoglobin <120 g/L) from 29.6% to 15.6%, and of low urinary iodine concentrations (<100 μg/L) from 97.5% to 5.4%. There was a significant between-group treatment effect (P < 0.05) in cognitive function with the digit span forward task (short-term memory). Fewer school days were missed in the intervention than in the control group because of respiratory- (P = 0.097) and diarrhea-related (P = 0.013) illnesses. The intervention had no effect on morbidity and cognitive function.
Conclusions: Fortified biscuits resulted in a significant improvement in the micronutrient status of primary school children from a poor rural community and also appeared to have a favorable effect on anthropometric status.