The role of zinc and iron-folic acid supplementation on early child temperament and eating behaviors in rural Nepal: A randomized controlled trial

Pamela J. Surkan, Mary Katherine Charles, Joanne Katz, Emily H. Siegel, Subarna K. Khatry, Steven C. LeClerq, Rebecca J. Stoltzfus, James M. Tielsch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Child eating behaviors play an important role in nutrient intake, ultimately affecting child growth and later outcomes in adulthood. The study assessed the effects of iron-folic acid and zinc supplementation on child temperament and child eating behaviors in rural Nepal. Children (N = 569) aged 4-17 months in Sarlahi district, southern Nepal were randomized to receive daily supplements of placebo, iron-folic acid, zinc, or zinc plus iron-folic acid and followed for approximately 1 year. At baseline and four follow-up visits mothers completed questionnaires including information on demographic characteristics and child temperament and eating behaviors. The main effects of zinc and iron-folic acid supplementation on temperament and eating behaviors were assessed through crude and adjusted differences in mean cumulative score changes between visits 1 and 5. The adjusted rate-of-change for these outcomes was modeled using generalized estimating equations. Mean changes in temperament scores and in eating behavior scores between visits 1 and 5 were not significant in either the zinc or non-zinc group. Children in the iron-folic acid group increased temperament scores by 0.37 points over 5 visits (95% CI 0.02, 0.7), which was not significant after adjustment. Neither the adjusted rate-of-change in temperament scores between zinc and non-zinc (β = -0.03, 95% CI -0.3, 0.2) or iron-folic acid and non-iron-folic acid (β = 0.08, 95% CI -0.2, 0.3) were significantly different. Adjusted rate of change analysis showed no significant difference between zinc and non-zinc (β = -0.14, 95% CI -0.3, 0.04) or between iron and non-iron eating behavior scores (β = -0.11, 95% CI -0.3, 0.1). Only among children with iron-deficiency anemia at baseline was there a significant decrease in eating behavior score, indicating better eating behaviors, when supplemented with zinc (β = -0.3, 95% CI -0.6, -0.01), Ultimately, this effect of zinc on eating behaviors was the only effect we observed after approximately one year of micronutrient supplementation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0114266
JournalPloS one
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 30 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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