Iron deficiency anemia (IDA) remains high in Kenya despite interventions. Twenty-seven percent of children aged 6 months-14 years are anemic, with low iron intake (7%) among children aged 6–23 months. Standard food interventions involve a corn soy blend (CSB), which is limited in micronutrients, and fortifiers are not accessible locally. Moreover, the use of spirulina as a strategy for mitigating IDA has not been adequately documented. This study compared the impact of a spirulina corn soy blend (SCSB) on IDA among children aged 6–23 months.
A total of 240 children with IDA were randomly assigned to study groups at a ratio of 1:1:1 through lotteries, and caregivers and research assistants were blinded to group assignment. Dry-take-home SCSB, CSB and placebo flour (1.7 kg) was given to caregivers to prepare porridges using a flour water ratio of 1:4, producing 600 ml–700 ml of porridge to feed children 200 ml of porridge three times a day for 6 months. Impact was assessed as plasma hematocrit at baseline and after the study. Blood drawing, preparation and analysis were performed in accordance with approved procedures by the EthicsResearchCommittee. Monthly follow-up and data collection on dietary intake, anthropometry, morbidity and infant feeding practices were performed using questionnaires. Relative risk, magnitude of change and log-rank tests were used to compare the impact of the intervention, and significant differences were determined at P < 0.05.
The survival probabilities for children consuming SCSB were significantly higher than those consuming CSB (log-rank-X2 = 0.978; CI: 0.954–1.033, P = 0.001) and the placebo (log-rankX2 = 0.971; CI: 0.943–0.984, P = 0.0001). Children consuming SCSB had a mean recovery time of 8 days (CI: 7–12 days) compared to those consuming CSB (19 days; CI: 20–23 days) and placebo (33 days; CI: 3 1–35 days). The recovery rate was 15.4 per 100 persons per day for children who consumed SCSB as opposed to 4.6 and 1.8 per 100 persons per day for those who consumed CSB and the placebo, respectively.
Management of IDA with SCSB compared to CSB and the placebo led to faster reversal and large numbers of recoveries from IDA. The recovery rates were above the World Health Organizations (WHO) minimums standards for food interventions. Efforts to realize high and faster recoveries from IDA should be heightened by fortifying CSB with spirulina powder.