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Efficacy of iron fortification compared to iron supplementation among Vietnamese schoolchildren

Huong Thi Le1*, Inge D Brouwer2, Jan Burema2, Khan Cong Nguyen3 and Frans J Kok2

Author Affiliations

1 Nutrition Department, Hanoi Medical University, 1 Ton That Tung St. Dong Da, Hanoi, Vietnam

2 Division of Human Nutrition, Wageningen University, P.O.Box 8129, 6700 EV Wageningen, The Netherlands

3 National Institute of Nutrition, Hanoi. 48B Tang Bat Ho St. Hanoi, Vietnam

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Nutrition Journal 2006, 5:32  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-5-32

Published: 5 December 2006


The effect of iron fortification is generally assumed to be less than iron supplementation; however, the magnitude of difference in effects is not known. The present study aims to compare the efficacy of these two strategies on anaemia and iron status. After screening on low Hb, 425 anaemic children in six primary schools in Tam Nong district of Phu Tho province were included in a randomized, placebo-controlled trial comparing two groups receiving iron fortified instant noodles or iron supplementation for 6 months and a control group, with children in all groups having been dewormed. Blood samples were collected before and after intervention for haemoglobin, serum ferritin (SF), serum transferrin receptor (TfR), C-reactive protein (CRP), and haemoglobinopathies analysis. Regression analysis was used to assess the effect of iron fortification and iron supplementation on haemoglobin concentration, SF, TfR, body iron, and anaemic status as outcome variables. The improvement of haemoglobin, SF, and body iron level in the group receiving iron fortification was 42% (2.6 g/L versus 6.2 g/L), 20% (23.5 μg/L versus 117.3 μg/L), and 31.3% (1.4 mg/kg versus 4.4 mg/kg) of that in the iron supplementation group. The prevalence of anaemia dropped to 15.1% in the control group, with an additional reduction of anaemia of 8.5% in the iron supplementation group. The additional reduction due to iron fortification was 5.4%, which amounts to well over 50% of the impact of supplementation. In conclusion, the efficacy of iron fortification based on reduction of prevalence of anaemia, and on the change in haemoglobin level, is about half of the maximum impact of supplementation in case of optimal compliance. Thus, in a population of anaemic children with mild iron deficiency, iron fortification should be the preferred strategy to combat anaemia.