Orange flesh sweet potato, a biofortified crop rich in vitamin A and energy, improves the nutrition and health outcomes of young children. However, the impacts on young infants when consumed by mothers during pregnancy and lactation and by infants in the early months of complementary feeding are less clear.
The Mama SASHA project provided enhanced nutrition education and health services to pregnant and lactating women through facility and community based platforms, vouchers for OFSP planting materials at ante- and postnatal care visits, and agriculture extension in Western, Kenya. A cohort of 505 pregnant women in control and intervention villages and their infants was followed through 10 months postpartum. We analyzed impacts along the project’s impact pathway using multilevel mixed modeling strategies.
Infants did not differ with respect to breastfeeding practices at 4 months postpartum. At 9 months, there were no differences with respect to infants’ meal frequency, diet diversity or consumption of VA-rich fruits and vegetables. However consumption of OFSP was significantly greater among intervention infants. At 8-10 months postpartum intervention infants had significantly higher intakes of beta carotene and retinol activity equivalents. Although no intervention effects were observed for infant vitamin A status, declines in length for age Z scores were significantly less among intervention versus control infants.
The promotion of OFSP to pregnant and lactating women via health services is a feasible, safe and effective strategy to improve vitamin A intakes of infants. Longer term follow up may be needed to observe effects on infant vitamin A status