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Fortified Drink Improves Third World Nutrition

SAN FRANCISCO -- A fortified orange-flavored drink given to East African children for six months not only significantly improved nutritional deficiencies but also brought almost twice as much weight gain and 25 percent greater gain in height than children who did not get the drink, a Cornell University nutritionist reports.

Rather than using megadoses of nutrients, vitamin pills or fortified foods to boost the diets of Tanzanian children, who are commonly deficient in many nutritional areas, the researchers tried a new approach to improve Third World diets. Their goal was to see if a simple drink, made by mixing about two tablespoons of powder in a glass of water and fortified with 10 vitamins and minerals, could reduce multiple deficiencies and improve growth, said Michael C. Latham, professor of international nutrition at Cornell. The drink supplied 30 to 120 percent of the U.S. recommended dietary allowances.

Latham presented the findings at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) meeting here today (April 20). Results also were presented by Cornell graduate student Deborah Ash, who spent 12 months supervising the field work in Tanzania.

In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, half of the 830 elementary school children who participated in the study drank a fortified orange-flavored drink containing iron, zinc, iodine, vitamins A and C, folate, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin and pyrodoxine. The other half received a similar unfortified drink. All children with intestinal worms were treated with the anti-parasite drug Albendazole at the onset of the study.

Among the fortified drinkers, most of the children with moderately severe anemia showed significant improvement in iron status. But many of the nonfortified drinkers showed a reduction. For vitamin A, only 11 percent of the fortified children were still below the benchmark for serum retinol levels, compared with 20 percent of the children who
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Contact: Susan S. Lang
SSL4@cornell.edu
607-255-3613
Cornell University News Service
20-Apr-1998


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