Cambodian children are less prone to diarrhea and fever and perform better on cognitive tests after regularly eating nutrient-fortified rice, according to a new study, the results of which were announced Tuesday.
Researchers from the U.N.’s World Food Program, the Institute of Development Research (IDR) and health NGO PATH tested 10,000 children in 20 schools in Kompong Speu province during a six-month period to compare the nutrition and cognitive abilities of those who regularly ate nutrient-fortified rice—standard milled rice mixed with rice-shaped “grains” containing vitamins and minerals—to those who ate regular rice.
“I think the most important thing we found was with zinc,” said senior IDR researcher Frank Wieringa.
“The high amounts of zinc deficiency [in Cambodia] is worrisome and the fact [that] we can reduce it with fortified rice is promising.”
Mr. Wieringa said zinc deficiency is widespread among Cambodian children and is linked to stunted growth, which affects 40 percent of children under 5 in the country.
He added the researchers were now looking into ways to introduce the fortified rice grains, which cost about $0.50 per child a year, into the Cambodian market.