The study has been running in South Africa and the findings were presented to the Micronutrient Forum Global Conference
, held during October 2016. The focus of the study was in area where poverty was high and where childhood nutrition is of concern. In particular, in some regions of the world, including parts of South Africa, many children suffer from ‘stunting’ (which means they are short for their age). This is a product of chronic malnutrition
Research was conducted in South Africa’s Jouberton, Klerksdorp in the North West province. This involved the testing of two small quantity lipid-based complementary food supplements, and the study population comprised of children between six and twelve years old. The United Nations backed Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition
seeks to find ways to improve childhood nutrition.
The study formed part of Tswaka Nutrition Intervention. The word “Tswaka” means “mixing” in the Setswana dialogue. This indicated that the test supplement was to be mixed into home-cooked food. The study was led by North-West University in South Africa, together with some private sector partners including Unilever.
Some 750 children took part in the tests. The children were then divided into a control group and a test group. The test group were given the lipid-based nutritional supplement. The children were regularly monitored, and these tests showed those who received the supplement had better iron levels and showed improved growth.
The supplements contain vegetable oil, protein, peanut paste, milk powder and sugar. They are designed to be added to foods like porridge, and do not alter the taste of the food to which they are added.
Commenting on the outcome, in communication with Digital Journal, the lead researcher Professor Marius Smuts stated: “After the age of six months, in addition to continued breastfeeding, children also need nutritious complementary foods to meet their growing needs”
The South African academic then added: “In vulnerable communities in the developing world, children often eat cereal-based gruels of poor nutritional quality. As a result, their nutritional status and development may be compromised.”