whilst achieving adequate and safe fortification by Corey Luthringer and Beatrice Montesi, GAIN
Despite positive developments in reducing malnutrition over the last few decades, hundreds of millions of people globally still do not consume adequate amounts of essential vitamins and minerals in their diets to sustain good health and development. This is referred to as “Hidden Hunger”, a major public health problem that is holding back entire communities.
hose suffering from Hidden Hunger may not appear malnourished, but still deal with the consequences of poor brain development, immune function, and work productivity. Especially within the first 1,000 days “window of opportunity” of a child’s life, from conception to the age of two, a lack of key micronutrients that contribute to physical and cognitive growth can have drastic, irreversible, and lifelong impacts. Communities also suffer from reductions in economic growth and a healthcare system overburdened by the medical treatment of preventable nutrition-related health problems.
Food fortification: a proven, scalable, and cost-effective nutrition intervention
Food fortification – the practice of adding small and safe amounts of micronutrients to staple foods and condiments – is a powerful nutrition success story that is reaching billions across the world. It is simple, scalable and among the world’s 54 | July 2016 - Milling and Grain
most cost-effective development interventions. The fortification of staples and condiments has been practiced in North America and Europe since the 1920s, and it has greatly contributed to the virtual eradication of diseases like pellagra, goitre, beriberi and scurvy. The World Bank and the Copenhagen Consensus ranked food fortification as one of the most cost-effective development investments, since it improves people’s health, while indirectly boosting productivity and economic progress.
The example of flour fortification
The fortification of flour with multiple micronutrients, including zinc, iron, and folate can help to alleviate the consequences of Hidden Hunger of public health and economic concern. Zinc helps strengthen the immune systems and lessens complications from diarrhea, the number one killer of children under five in low and middle income countries (directly through dehydration and indirectly through preventing the absorption of essential macro and micronutrients). Iron and B-complex vitamins (especially B12) prevent nutritional anemia, which improves productivity, maternal health, and cognitive development. Folic acid reduces the risks of neural tube birth defects (NTDs), a defect in the development of the spinal cord that can lead to lifelong physical and cognitive disability. The solution is quite simple and inexpensive: adding these essential micronutrients to flour, one of the most widely