Background: Meta-analyses show that small-quantity lipid-based nutrient supplements (SQ-LNSs) reduce child wasting and stunting. There is little information regarding effects on severe wasting or stunting.
Objectives: We aimed to identify the effect of SQ-LNSs on prevalence of severe wasting (weight-for-length z score < −3) and severe stunting (length-for-age z score < −3).
Methods: We conducted a 2-stage meta-analysis of individual participant data from 14 randomized controlled trials of SQ-LNSs provided to children 6–24 mo of age. We generated study-specific and subgroup estimates of SQ-LNS compared with control and pooled the estimates using fixed-effects models. We used random-effects meta-regression to examine study-level effect modifiers. In sensitivity analyses, we examined whether results differed depending on study arm inclusion criteria and types of comparisons.
Results: SQ-LNS provision led to a relative reduction of 31% in severe wasting [prevalence ratio (PR): 0.69; 95% CI: 0.55, 0.86; n = 34,373] and 17% in severe stunting (PR: 0.83; 95% CI: 0.78, 0.90; n = 36,795) at endline. Results were similar in most of the sensitivity analyses but somewhat attenuated when comparisons using passive control arms were excluded (PR: 0.74; 95% CI: 0.57, 0.96; n = 26,327 for severe wasting and PR: 0.88; 95% CI: 0.81, 0.95; n = 28,742 for severe stunting). Study-level characteristics generally did not significantly modify the effects of SQ-LNSs, but results suggested greater effects of SQ-LNSs in sites with greater burdens of wasting or stunting, or with poorer water quality or sanitation.
Conclusions: Including SQ-LNSs in preventive interventions to promote healthy child growth and development is likely to reduce rates of severe wasting and stunting.