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Original Investigation
October 3, 2016

Perinatal Consumption of Thiamine-Fortified Fish Sauce in Rural CambodiaA Randomized Clinical Trial

Author Affiliations
  • 1Food, Nutrition, and Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • 2Department of Applied Human Nutrition, Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
  • 3Helen Keller International Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
  • 4US Department of Agriculture, ARS Western Human Nutrition Research Center, University of California, Davis
  • 5Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis
  • 6National Subcommittee for Food Fortification, Ministry of Planning, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
  • 7National Nutrition Programme, Maternal and Child Health Centre, Ministry of Health, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
  • 8Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  • 9South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
  • 10Discipline of Paediatrics and Reproductive Health, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
JAMA Pediatr. 2016;170(10):e162065. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.2065

Importance  Infantile beriberi, a potentially fatal disease caused by thiamine deficiency, remains a public health concern in Cambodia and regions where thiamine-poor white rice is a staple food. Low maternal thiamine intake reduces breast milk thiamine concentrations, placing breastfed infants at risk of beriberi.

Objective  To determine if consumption of thiamine-fortified fish sauce yields higher erythrocyte thiamine diphosphate concentrations (eTDP) among lactating women and newborn infants and higher breast milk thiamine concentrations compared with a control sauce.

Design, Setting, and Participants  In this double-blind randomized clinical trial, 90 pregnant women were recruited in the Prey Veng province, Cambodia. The study took place between October 2014 and April 2015.

Interventions  Women were randomized to 1 of 3 groups (n = 30) for ad libitum fish sauce consumption for 6 months: control (no thiamine), low-concentration (2 g/L), or high-concentration (8 g/L) fish sauce.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Maternal eTDP was assessed at baseline (October 2014) and endline (April 2015). Secondary outcomes, breast milk thiamine concentration and infant eTDP, were measured at endline.

Results  Women's mean (SD) age and gestational stage were 26 (5) years and 23 (7) weeks, respectively. April 2015 eTDP was measured among 28 women (93%), 29 women (97%), and 23 women (77%) in the control, low-concentration, and high-concentration groups, respectively. In modified intent-to-treat analysis, mean baseline-adjusted endline eTDP was higher among women in the low-concentration (282nM; 95% CI, 235nM to 310nM) and high-concentration (254nM; 95% CI, 225nM to 284nM) groups compared with the control group (193nM; 95% CI, 164nM to 222M; P < .05); low-concentration and high-concentration groups did not differ (P = .19). Breast milk total thiamine concentrations were 14.4 μg/dL for the control group (95% CI, 12.3 μg/dL to 16.5 μg/dL) (to convert to nanomoles per liter, multiply by 29.6); 20.7 μg/dL for the low-concentration group (95% CI, 18.6 μg/dL to 22.7 μg/dL ); and 17.7 μg/dL for the high-concentration group (95% CI, 15.6 μg/dL to 19.9 μg/dL). Mean (SD) infant age at endline was 16 (8) weeks for the control group, 17 (7) weeks for the low-concentration group, and 14 (8) for the high-concentration group. Infant eTDP was higher among those in the high-concentration group (257nM; 95% CI, 222nM to 291nM; P < .05) compared with the low-concentration (212nM; 95% CI, 181nM to 244nM) and control (187nM; 95% CI, 155nM to 218nM) groups.

Conclusions and Relevance  Compared with women in the control group, women who consumed thiamine-fortified fish sauce through pregnancy and early lactation had higher eTDP and breast milk thiamine concentrations and their infants had higher eTDP, which was more pronounced in the high group. Thiamine-fortified fish sauce has the potential to prevent infantile beriberi in this population.

Trial Registration  Clinicaltrials.gov Identifier: NCT02221063