This study assessed weight and height changes among underweight children who received a locally produced, cereal-based, ready-to-use supplementary food.
We recruited 500 underweight Bangladeshi children aged 6-23 months from a Dhaka slum and individually matched them by sex and neighbourhood with 480 well-nourished controls. The intervention group received the daily food supplement for five months, and both groups received daily micronutrient supplements. Their weight, height, mid-upper-arm circumference and head circumference were measured monthly.
The children's mean daily weight gain decreased from 1.27 to 0.66 grams per kilogram per day (g/kg/day) in the intervention group and 0.77 to 0.49 g/kg/day in the controls after adjusting for age differences between the two groups from baseline to five months of follow-up. The mean monthly height gain decreased from 1.13 to 1.03 millimetres per metre per month in the intervention children and 1.26 to 1.01 in the controls. The weight gain was highest in the intervention children who were most wasted at baseline and the controls who were least stunted.
The children showed suboptimal growth despite food supplements, highlighting the need for ongoing research to develop inexpensive, locally sourced food supplements to improve the nutrition of underweight children in Bangladesh.