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‘Childhood Anemia is associated with a 2.5% drop in wages in adulthood’

FORTIFICATION INVESTMENT Without testing, it is impossible to know whether flour has been fortified. Flour with added vitamins and minerals will smell, look, and bake exactly the same as unfortified flour. However, whilst these ingredients may be invisible, their profound positive effects are very much tangible for millions of people who consume baked goods every day. The nutrients, such as iron and folic acid, yield healthier individuals, especially mothers and babies, and lead an economically strong society as well.

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or years, researchers have highlighted the financial benefits of interventions to increase a population’s vitamin and mineral intake. In 2008, Nobel laureate economists suggested that the most effective investment in fighting hunger was food fortification and supplements. The 2012 Copenhagen Consensus, a conference that sought to shape development spending in addressing some of the world’s biggest problems, found similar sentiments. According to the Consensus, each dollar spent on reducing chronic under-nutrition yields a $30 payoff.

How do these financial benefits occur?

First, consider iron. People who suffer from iron deficiency anemia experience lethargy as a result of low hemoglobin in their blood cells. Less energy causes decreased productivity; anemia is estimated to contribute to 5% lower productivity for light work and 17% lower productivity for heavy manual labor. Decreased productivity could yield loss of income on the individual level, resulting in loss of overall country capital at the societal level. Additional economic loss comes from iron deficiency among children. This inhibits cognitive development, which in turn limits future earnings. Consequently childhood anemia is associated with a 2.5% drop in wages in adulthood. 66 | January 2017 - Milling and Grain

Iron deficiency in childhood inhibitis cognitive development, and this in turn limits earning potential later in life.

by Stephanie Santana, FFI Graduate Research Assistant, Emory University Iron

Adding iron to flour can prevent many of the problems associated with iron deficiency anemia. Fortification led to a 27% reduction of anemia in Kuwait among adult women and a 45% reduction in Costa Rica. An early study of the connection between working productivity and iron status was in 1979 in Sri Lanka. It found that after one month, workers who had received iron treatment could pick 0.3 kilograms of tea a day, which was significantly greater than the quantity of tea picked by those who received placebos. Nutrition is such an important factor for economic progress that it is stated in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development goals. The goals call for ending all forms of malnutrition by the year 2030, noting that ending malnutrition is an important factor for economic development.

Folic acid

Another nutrient commonly used in fortification is folic acid, which helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spine called neural tube defects (NTDs). Every year, about 300,000 NTDs occur. A very common NTD is spina bifida. Children with this condition will have some type of permanent paralysis and will need medical care for the rest of their lives. A study from South Africa estimated costs for a child with spina bifida during the first three years of life. The study showed that fortification reduced cases of spina bifida by 41.6%. The researchers concluded that the benefit:cost ratio was 46:1 and that “the economic benefit flowing from the prevention of NTDs greatly exceeds the costs of implementing folic acid fortification.” South Africa is among 86 countries worldwide with legislation

JAN 2017 - Milling and Grain magazine  
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