In 1996, a group of UNICEF consultants determined that available interventions for iron deficiency anemia (syrup and drops
for infants and children, and capsules for women) were not effective, as adherence to treatment remained poor. They called for a simple,
inexpensive and potentially viable new method to provide micronutrients (including iron) to populations at risk (UNICEF-monograph). This
was based on two observations from the ‘West’ where micronutrient deficiencies are rare; (a) fortification of commercially available
essential micronutrients and (b) no change in the color, texture or taste of the food ensures compliance.
Responding to the challenge, the Nutrition Research Group at The Hospital for Sick Children, University of Toronto, developed ‘Supplefer’ utilizing encapsulated micronutrients for adding directly to food, that is inexpensive to manufacture and distribute. The
encapsulate is a thin coating of lipid that prevents the iron from oxidizing the food, resulting in ‘no change’ in the color or
taste of the food. Initially
we targeted IDA and carried out in vitro dissolution studies to demonstrate that the lipid encapsulation will dissolve at the low pH
of the stomach, leaving the iron available for absorption.To administer the correct amount of iron, we packaged the encapsulated
micronutrients in single-dose-sachets as is the case with oral rehydration sachets. The contents are then sprinkled on food.
Supplefer is more than an iron supplement. The formulation can include iron and various
other micronutrients such as B6, B12, zinc, iodine,
copper, folate, vitamins A and D that can be formulated into the sachet to prevent common deficiencies.
In addition, vitamin C can be added to increase the bioavailability of the iron. To test the efficacy of
the product, we have performed a number of clinical trials.