© Chandra Almony/University of Arizona

By Jennifer O’Riordan

Providing malnourished children with a potato-soy mix ration rather than the traditional corn-soy blend achieved similar health results, according to a study published in the African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development.

While the potato mix as a ration had the same impact on growth as the standard corn mix, it required less fuel to prepare and takes less time to cook. The potato-based blend was also found to be more easily digested since it has less fiber than corn, thus leading to less discomfort for the children.

“Multiple food rations are available yet few studies have compared their differential effect on the growth of children,” wrote Mel and Enid Zuckerman of the College of Public Health at the University of Arizona in the Journal. It was funded by the U.S. Potato Board.

Undernutrition plays a huge part in the death of many young Senegalese children – contributing to 31 percent of deaths in those aged five and younger.

A total of 345 children from Counterpart’s Maternal and Child Health Nutrition (MCHN) component under the Development Assistance Program (DAP), supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Food for Peace program, were recruited for the study in Senegal’s Podor Department.

One hundred and seventy eight children were assigned to the corn-soy blend group and 167 to the potato-soy protein concentrate blend group. During a four-month period, differences in their weight, height and mid-upper arm circumference were measured for progress and against what their average weight and height should be for their age.

The results of the study showed that targeted food supplement programs are an important component in improving the nutritional status of a region, especially when combined with better primary care, sanitation, a better water supply and economic reforms that focus on poverty reduction.

In order to be eligible for the trial, villages had to be a DAP program site and not more than 12 miles from Counterpart’s field office in Ndioum. Seven villages were randomly chosen from the 13 meeting the eligibility criteria: Bode, Diomandou, Toulde Galle, Sinthiou Penaka, Doumga Lao, Gawdi Gotti and Olol Diaobe.

To take a closer look at the study, follow this link: http://www.ajfand.net/Volume11/No4/Taren10335.pdf