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Centre for International Health

The effect of Vitamin B12 supplementation in Nepali Infants on Growth and Development

Vitamin B12 is involved in the metabolism of every cell and has a key role in the functioning of our nervous system. Vitamin B12 deficiency is one of the most common micronutrient deficiencies worldwide and can occur at all ages. An association between vitamin B12 deficiency with neurodevelopment and child growth has been reported with potentially irreversible impairments. It is therefore important to study if an improvement in vitamin B12 status in children also improves developmental outcomes, and which populations potentially benefit the most.

The first 1 000 days of life represents a particular vulnerable period for neurodevelopment and growth. The timing of a nutritional deficiency during this period may have differing effects on different functions and areas of the nervous system. It is thus important to study at which age supplementation might result in improved functioning on different sub-scales of development and to assess if effects persist after the end of supplementation.

This study is a follow-up of an ongoing randomized placebo-controlled trial. In total, 600 Nepalese children were enrolled at age 6-11 months, and half of them received 2μg of vitamin B12 supplementation daily for 1 year. The trial aims to assess improvements in neurodevelopment and growth after one and two years. It will provide information expanding on that being provided by the CISMAC study on vitamin B12 supplementation during pregnancy. These studies combined will be the most comprehensive study on the effects of vitamin B12 supplementation throughout the most vulnerable period of life.