Food supplementation for improving the physical and psychosocial health of socio-economically disadvantaged children aged three months to five years

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This review has found that child-feeding interventions are under-performing. Although evidence is provided that feeding interventions can work, results indicate that good implementation is key. This leads to several suggestions for program development, implementation, and monitoring.

Under-nutrition can be a cause of child mortality and can lead to higher risks of infection, poor child development and school performance, as well as to chronic diseases in later life. the effectiveness of nutrition interventions for young children is an important area of study, in order to attempt to treat under-nutrition. This review aims to evaluate the effectiveness of supplementary food programs for improving the health of disadvantaged children, as well as identifying the factors which may contribute to such effectiveness. Thirty-two trials, including randomized control and before and after controlled trials, were included in this review. Results showed that providing additional food to children aged three months to five years led to small gains in weight and height, and to moderate increases in hemoglobin. Positive effects on psychomotor development were also observed when additional food interventions were implemented. Mixed evidence on the effect of such intervention on mental development was observed. In high-income countries, two studies found no benefits for growth. Food distributed in care or feeding centers showed children to receive 85% of energy from the supplement, compared to only 36% when home-delivered. Supplementary food was more effective for younger children (under two years old) and those who were poorer or less well-nourished. Results for sex were mixed. Feeding programs that were well-supervised or provided a greater proportion of required daily food for energy were generally more effective.

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