International experts discuss food fortification at MMHRDC Annual Scientific Conference

Dr. Visith Chavasit, Professor at Mahidol University–Thailand, Dr. Drajat Matianto, Vice Rector of Bogor Agricultural University–Indonesia, and Dr. Enrique Ostrea Jr., Professor at Wayne State University Michigan, presented their research and insights on food fortification science at the 2nd International Symposium and 9th Annual Scientific Conference of Metro Manila Health Research and Development Council on 24-25 May at Pan Pacific Manila.

Highlighting the theme “Food Fortification in Universal Healthcare,” Philippine Council for Health Research and Development Executive Director, Dr. Jaime C. Montoya, through a speech read by Ms. Carina Rebulanan, said that “Food fortification has been an effective bridge in bringing together several elements to effectively combat malnutrition.”

“It’s cost-effective, it has a wide scale and impact; and it targets staple foods that are available and are part of the daily diet of individuals,” she added while explaining the importance of food fortification as part of malnutrition reduction programs to improve overall global health.

Dr. Chavasit discussed achieving optimal population health and nutrition through food fortification. He explained the best practices involved in creating better fortified foods, shedding light on the importance of developing programs that could be received better by the consumers.

He also shared the impact of the Universal Salt Iodization, a main strategy in eliminating iodine deficiency through iodizing all edible salt whether household, processed food, and animal salt. He emphasized how the program can drastically reduce the risks of mental retardation in children.

The food fortification initiatives in the ASEAN region was discussed by Dr. Matianto. He explained that there are three strategies in addressing micronutrient deficiencies in the region, namely supplementation, food diversification, and food fortification.

Dr. Matianto explained how food fortification is believed to be the best and most efficient choice since its cost efficiency also contributes to poverty alleviation and improvement of household food security. He also highlighted the mandatory program scheme of food fortification in Indonesia which fortifies salt with iodine, wheat flour with iron, zinc, and vitamin B, and palm oil with vitamin A.

Dr. Ma. Esterlita V. Uy of the University of the Philippines–Manila National Institutes of Health presented Dr. Enrique M. Ostrea Jr.’s study on the effects of food fortification with Moringa oleifera (malunggay) in the IQ of children. The research delves on how the enrichment of snacks with iodine and protein led to the significant increase in the IQ, weight, and hematocrit of daycare students in Malolos City, Bulacan. The study noted the increase in the IQ of the children ranging from five to eight points through 10 continuous months of feeding with snacks fortified with malunggay compared to the control population.

The conference also included poster and photo exhibits by students and researchers centered on food fortification research.

The Metro Manila Health Research and Development Consortium (MMHRDC) is part of the regional consortia under the Philippine National Health Research System (PNHRS). The Philippine Council for Health Research and Development serves as the PNHRS Secretariat, providing technical and administrative support to the consortia network.