“A food-based micronutrient supplementation of complementary food blends increases availability and intake of nutrients commonly insufficient in the daily diet of young kids, thereby helping improve their nutritional status.”
An estimated one-third of children five years old and below in developing countries like the Philippines are stunted.
Stunting is when a child is short in height compared to other children of the same age.
Indicative of past malnutrition, stunting is the result of long-term undernutrition, like years of inadequate intake of nutrients that stagnates growth and development.
Also, a large proportion of children are deficient in one or more micronutrients, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF, 2015).
Based on the results of the 2013 National Nutrition Survey (NNS) of the Department of Science and Technology’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the (DOST-FNRI), undernutrition persists among Filipino children.
From 2008 to 2013, there was an increase in the number of underweight children, the FNRI NNS revealed.
The 2013 NNS also revealed that anemia prevalence was at 55.7 percent (%) and was highest among infants 6 to 11 months old.
Appropriate complementary feeding starting six months of age and continuous breastfeeding up to two years is critical for children’s optimal growth and development.
Related to this, the DOST-FNR developed complementary food blends to address protein-energy malnutrition. Complementary food is any nutrient-dense food given to babies starting six months of age until two to three years old, while breastfeeding is continuous.
At six months, breastmilk alone is not enough to meet the increasing nutritional needs for proper growth and development of the baby.
Complementary food blends can be enhanced with the multi-nutrient growth mix (MGM) containing vitamins and minerals.
Three MGM variants were developed using locally-grown fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins and minerals.
These fruits and vegetables were individually processed and blended in different proportions until three MGM variants were acceptable.
Acceptable formulations were selected based on sensory evaluation, raw material cost, and estimated nutritional content.
The formulations were then standardized and stored at room temperature to determine shelf-life.
A series of sensory evaluation were conducted during trials, optimization, standardization runs, and storage study of the products.
Chemical, physico-chemical, and microbiological analyses were also done during the storage study.
The three MGM variants developed are Carrot-Anchovies, Yellow Sweet Potato-Spinach and Squash-Banana blends.
The percent recommended energy and nutrient intakes (RENI) contribution for one to three year-old children are 6 percent energy, 15 percent protein, 37 percent vitamin A, 25 percent calcium, 3 percent iron, 8 percent zinc, and 75 percent iodine for Carrot-Anchovies blend.
Yellow Sweet Potato-Spinach blend contains 6 percent energy, 3 percent protein, 23 percent vitamin A, 8 percent calcium, 12 percent iron, 9 percent zinc, and 49 percent iodine.
Squash-Banana blend provides 5 percent energy, 6 percent protein, 10 percent vitamin A, 34 percent calcium, 7 percent iron, 12 percent zinc, and 79 percent iodine.
Sensory panelists rated the blends “like slightly” to “like moderately”.
Packed in laminated foil, the MGM was stable after one year of storage under room temperature.
A pack of 15 grams costs P24.45 for Carrot-Anchovies, P9.16 for Yellow Sweet Potato-Spinach and P10.72 for Squash-Banana.
Differences in costs are attributed to the cost of raw materials used in the formation of each variant.
Locally grown fruits and vegetables are rich sources of vitamins and minerals but are not available daily in most Filipino meals due to seasonality and short shelf-life.
Development of the multi-nutrient growth mixes using fruits and vegetables in ready-to-use sachets can help address availability and perishability.
The MGM blends can always be available to mothers and caregivers in convenient form.
Vitamins and minerals from local plants naturally fortify the ordinary “lugaw” or rice porridge usually given to young children to complement the protein and energy-dense blends also developed by the FNRI.
The MGM is a mixture of affordable, locally available and culturally acceptable food based add-on to complementary food.
Underweight children six months to two years old, mothers and caregivers of underweight children, barangay health and nutrition workers, as well as small and medium scale enterprises can benefit from these technologies.
The MGM technology is ready for adoption by interested entrepreneurs, local government units (LGUs) and non-government organizations (NGOs).
This strategy will also provide farmers with livelihood by planting local crops used in producing MGM.
A food-based strategy is a sustainable approach because it allows the mother, caregivers and household to take responsible control of the quality of food by growing their own nutrient-rich foods.