Vitamins Reduce Low Birth Weight in Developing Nations

Daily multivitamin supplements reduce low birth weight and small-for-gestational-age births

WEDNESDAY, April 4 (HealthDay News) -- Pregnant women in Tanzania who take multivitamin supplements are less likely to have low birth weight and small-for-gestational-age infants, suggesting multivitamins should be considered for all pregnant women in developing countries, researchers report in the April 5 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Wafaie W. Fawzi, M.B., B.S., Dr.Ph., of Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues randomly assigned 8,468 HIV-negative Tanzanian women to either a daily multivitamin supplement or placebo starting at 12 to 27 weeks of gestation. The multivitamin included 20 mg of vitamin B1, 20 mg of vitamin B2, 25 mg of vitamin B6, 100 mg of niacin, 50 μg of vitamin B12, 500 mg of vitamin C, 30 mg of vitamin E, and 0.8 mg of folic acid.

The investigators found the incidence of low birth weight was 7.8 percent in the multivitamin group compared with 9.4 percent in the placebo group, with a mean difference in birth weight of 67 grams. Vitamin supplementation also reduced the incidence of small-for-gestational-age birth size in some groups by 23 percent and cut the risk of maternal anemia by 12 percent. There were no significant differences in premature births or fetal deaths.

"The increase in cost of incorporating the recommended dietary allowance of additional nutrients is conservatively estimated to be about 20 percent, and scaling up prenatal multiple micronutrient supplementation could be a highly cost-effective approach to improving birth outcome among pregnant women in developing countries," the authors write.

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