Impact of fortified biscuits on micronutrient deficiencies among primary school children in Bangladesh
Adams AM, Ahmed R, Mahbub Latif AHM, Rasheed S, Das SM, Hasib E, Farzana FD, Ferdous F, Ahmed S, Faruque ASG (2017) Impact of fortified biscuits on micronutrient deficiencies among primary school children in Bangladesh, PLOS One, 12(4): e0174673, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0174673
Background: Micronutrient deficiencies can compromise the development potential of school-aged children, and their later health and productivity as adults. School feeding and school-based fortification approaches have been utilized globally to redress nutritional deficiencies in this age group.
Objective: We explored the acceptability and micronutrient impact of a Bangladesh Government supported school-based micronutrient fortification program for children attending rural primary schools in 10 disadvantaged sub-districts.
Methods: We applied a mixed methods approach. The quantitative component assessed the impact of micronutrient fortification on 351 children aged 6–11 years using a cohort pre-post research design with a control group. The qualitative component explored the acceptability of the intervention using focus group discussions, body mapping and semi-structured interviews with teachers, school-going children and school authorities.
Results: Daily consumption of fortified biscuits by primary school children had a significant positive impact on mean levels of iron, folic acid, vitamin B12, retinol and vitamin D controlling for sex, baseline deficiency status, CRP, and H. pylori. Levels of anemia and vitamin D deficiency were also significantly reduced. Qualitative findings indicated the widespread acceptability of the daily biscuit. Teachers perceived students to be more attentive in class, less tired, and some attributed better school performance to biscuit consumption. Children reported similar improvements in concentration and energy levels.
Conclusions: This study is among the first in Bangladesh to comprehensively assess a school-based fortification program in terms of its acceptability and impact on micronutrient status of children aged 6–11 years of age. While results strongly support this modality of school feeding, research on the cognitive impacts of micronutrient fortified biscuits will help clarify the case for scaled-up investments in school- based feeding program in Bangladesh and other low and middle income countries.