Wetenschap - 17 mei 2001

Supplements not the answer to malnutrition in Benin

Supplements not the answer to malnutrition in Benin

Nutritional supplements do not help school children in Benin who have stunted growth. Pills containing 11 vitamins and 10 minerals had no effect on their appetite or growth. This is the conclusion reached by Romain Anselme Marc Dossa in his PhD thesis.

Dossa points to two possible reasons why the research had such disappointing results. "The children were only given the pills for six weeks. In studies where supplements have had an effect, pills were given for a period of three to six months." In addition, the children with whom Dossa worked were so badly undernourished that a handful of vitamins was not enough to make up for the shortage. "Their total caloric intake was too low," he explains, "and they had a shortage of protein in their diet."

Objective test

Nevertheless Dossa does not regard his research as a failure. "Negative results are also progress in science." And he also developed the first objective test to measure the appetite of children. He gave the children maize porridge (aklui) for breakfast, and let them eat as much as they wanted. The amount the children ate turned out to be a good indicator of their food intake for the rest of the day.

Romain Dossa was awarded his PhD on 16 May. He was supervised by Professor of Nutrition and Health Jo Hautvast.

Willem Koert

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