Brain growth and development are critically dependent on several micronutrients. During early development cellular activity may be sensitive to micronutrient deficiencies, however the evidence from human studies is equivocal. The objective of this study was to examine the long-term cognitive and social-emotional effects of multiple micronutrient supplementation compared with iron supplementation alone, administered during infancy. This study was a follow-up to an initial randomized, double-blind controlled trial (RCT) in 2010 in which 902 infants, aged 6–17 months, from Lima, Peru, were given daily supplements of either iron (Fe) or multiple micronutrients (MMN) including zinc (451 in each group). The supplementation period for both groups was six months. In 2012, a subsample of 184 children from the original cohort (now aged 36–48 months) was randomly selected to participate in a follow-up trial and was assessed for intelligence, working memory, inhibition, and executive function. The tests showed no significant differences between the supplementation groups though there were some gender differences, with girls displaying higher scores than boys across both groups on the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI) Verbal IQ sentences subtest, the Day-Night cognitive test and on the Brief Infant-Toddler Social Emotional Assessment (BITSEA) social competency, and boys scoring higher than girls in problem behaviour. The results indicate that MMN supplementation had no long term additional effects on cognitive function compared with iron supplementation alone. The timing of supplement administration for maximum impact on a child’s cognitive development requires further investigation.
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