Alida Melse focuses in her research on new and sustainable food-based solutions for micronutrient malnutrition in low resource and emerging countries. The physiology related to nutrient deficiencies in vulnerable population groups such as pregnant women, infants and children forms the core of her research. This comprises nutrient intake, absorption, and metabolism in relation to nutrient status and growth. At present, she is leading the implementation of a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the efficacy of biofortified yellow cassava to improve vitamin A status and intake of preschool children in Nigeria.
The role of dairy in food-based dietary recommendations for children in developing countries
1- Assistant Professor International Nutrition, Division of Human Nutrition, Wageningen University & Research, P.O. Box 8129, 6700 EV Wageningen, The Netherlands
Stunting and deficiencies of iron, vitamin A and zinc among young children are unabated public health priorities in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, compounded by a rising prevalence of overweight and obesity. One of the most important determinants of malnutrition is the low quality of the children’s diet, emphasizing the need for food based recommendations to enhance complementary feeding for optimal growth and development of young children. We studied the role of dairy in food based recommendations in four regions in Ethiopia, using mathematical modelling (Optifood©) based on data from a quantitative 24-hour recall among 2500 children 6-23 months old. Dairy (mainly fresh cow’s milk) consumption was low among approximately 10% of children in Amhara and Tigray region, to 15% in SNNPR and 30% in Oromia regions, with average consumption frequencies of once a week. Portion sizes were small ranging from on average 130 gram per day in 6-8 months old, to 170 gram per day for 12-23 months old children. Food based recommendations developed included dairy (fresh cow milk); 7 times per week for Tigray and Amhara regions, and 3.5 times a week for Oromia and SNNPR regions. Although these recommendations covered most of the nutrient requirements, adequacy for zinc (all age groups) and iron (youngest age groups) could not be met even when adopted fully. We concluded that dairy especially fresh cow’s milk is a vital component of food-based recommendations for complementary feeding of young children in Ethiopia but may require significant changes in the diet. Feasibility and acceptability of these changes should be further studied as well as whether the existing food system can support these changes. Furthermore, alternative options to cover iron and zinc requirements, such as through food fortification, should be identified.