New study boosts use of thiamine fortified fish sauce to tackle beriberi

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Fish sauce is a widely consumed product in Cambodia.
Fish sauce is a widely consumed product in Cambodia.
Further evidence has been published showing how fortified fish sauce is being used in Cambodia to help tackle thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency and the associated disease beriberi in babies.

Beriberi, which causes vomiting, convulsions and signs of heart failure, generally presents among breastfed infants at three months. It can be fatal for an infant unless thiamine is rapidly administered.

It often occurs because of maternal dietary factors, including significant consumption of polished white rice, which lacks in thiamine, and little consumption of thiamine-rich foods.

Last year we reported on a study published by JAMA Pediatrics​ ​and led by Timothy J. Green of the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute in Adelaide, which sought to discover whether consuming fish sauce fortified with thiamine​ for six months during pregnancy would yield higher erythrocyte thiamine diphosphate concentrations (eTDP), a marker of thiamine status.

Fish sauce is a widely consumed product in the country.

The study found that levels of eTDP were higher among lactating women consuming thiamine-fortified fish sauce and their breastfed infants than in the control group, according to the results.

Now, a new study published The Journal of Pediatrics​. also led by Professor Green, appears to show positive results in non-pregnant women and their offspring too.

The study set out to “ assess whether ad libitum consumption of thiamin-fortified fish sauce over 6 months yields higher erythrocyte thiamine diphosphate concentrations (eTDP) among women of childbearing age and their children aged 12-59 months compared with control sauce containing no thiamin.”

A total of  276 non-pregnant, non-lactating women aged 18 to 45 years of age) and their families in Prey Veng, Cambodia, were randomly selected  to receive one  of three fish sauce formulations: low thiamin concentration (low, 2 g/L), high thiamine concentration (high, 8 g/L), or a control (no thiamin) fish sauce.

Sustainable vehicle

Baseline and endline eTDP was measured with the use of high-performance liquid chromatography with a fluorescence detector.

It found that women and children consuming thiamin-fortified fish sauce had significantly greater baseline-adjusted eTDP at endline compared with those consuming the control fish sauce.

The study stated: “Fish sauce is an efficacious means of improving thiamine intake and therefore has potential to be a simple and sustainable vehicle for other micronutrients as well. It is already a vehicle for iron fortification in Cambodia and Vietnam, so this intervention could be a low-cost, sustainable, and population-wide means of preventing thiamine deficiency in Cambodia and throughout Southeast Asia.”

Source: Journal of Pediatrics

"Household Consumption of Thiamin-Fortified Fish Sauce Increases Erythrocyte Thiamin Concentrations among Rural Cambodian Women and Their Children Younger Than 5 Years of Age: A Randomized Controlled Efficacy Trial"

Authors: Timothy Green, ​et al.

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