Effects of an intervention on infant growth and development: evidence for different mechanisms at work.

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Millions of children in low-income and middle-income countries falter in linear growth and neurobehavioral development early in life. This faltering may be caused by risk factors that are associated with both growth and development, such as insufficient dietary intake and infection in infancy. Alternatively, these risk factors may be indicative of an environment that constrains both linear growth and development through different mechanisms. In a cluster-randomized trial in Burkina Faso, we previously found that provision of lipid-based nutrient supplements plus malaria and diarrhoea treatment from age 9 to 18 months resulted in positive effects of ~0.3 standard deviation on length-for-age z-score (LAZ) and of ~0.3 standard deviation on motor, language and personal-social development scores at age 18 months. In this paper, we examined whether the effect of the intervention on developmental scores was mediated by the effect on LAZ, or, alternatively, whether the intervention had independent effects on growth and development. For motor, language, and personal-social z-scores, the effect of the intervention decreased from 0.32 to 0.21, from 0.33 to 0.27 and from 0.35 to 0.29, respectively, when controlling for change in LAZ from 9 to 18 months. All effects remained significant. These results indicate that the intervention had independent positive effects on linear growth and development, suggesting that these effects occurred through different mechanisms. © 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

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Matern Child Nutr