By Patricia Siwajek
Registered Dietician and Senior Nutrition, Health & Wellness Expert at Nestlé Research Center
Imagine if people talked about solving undernutrition just as much as we all talk about obesity.
Throughout the world, two billion people do not get enough micronutrients like iron and vitamin A. It’s a serious problem, especially in the developing world, and can have long-term health effects.
Although progress has been made worldwide to reduce micronutrient deficiencies, there is still some way to go to further reduce undernutrition and eventually eliminate it.
The most common micronutrient deficiencies found in children globally are those related to iron, vitamin A, zinc, and iodine. If the right amounts of these nutrients were widely available in everyday foods, it could change children’s lives.
Long-term health effects
So what happens when a child doesn’t get enough of these nutrients?
- A lack of iron can limit a child’s physical, intellectual and psychomotor development.
- A lack of vitamin A can lead to blindness and a compromised immune system.
- A lack of zinc can stunt a child’s growth.
- A lack of iodine can lead to an increased risk of preventable intellectual disability.
Why is it important to me?
I am proud to be leading Micronutrient Fortification at Nestlé. As a dietician, I promote proper nutrition, with a diversified diet being the ultimate goal. When this is not feasible, fortified foods can fill the gap by providing much-needed nutrients.
Either way, proper nutrition is a key factor in ensuring a child’s growth potential, learning opportunities and potentially changing their economic future.
It’s amazing how something as simple as a nutrient-rich fortified food or beverage can contribute to a child’s development. For example, simply adding iodine to salt is a very effective way of introducing iodine in the diet and can help reduce the risk of decreased intellectual ability. Adding iron to a bouillon cube can positively impact a child’s growth and development.
What I love about my work is that my team and I are deeply committed to finding solutions to meet the nutritional needs of populations that are not getting enough of the right nutrients. And our work supports Nestlé’s 2030 ambition to help 50 million children lead healthier lives.
Why is it important to Nestlé?
It is important for us to understand the nutritional needs of children, country by country, as they have different needs and challenges when it comes to a healthy diet.
Making affordable, fortified foods and beverages is one way we help both individuals and families lead healthier lives. This is a sure way for parents to provide good nutrition to their children.
We develop our products based on the latest research and technology to ensure that good nutrition is as good as it tastes. We do this by striking the right balance of making a product taste good and ensuring it has the optimal amounts of micronutrients. Because if children won’t eat our products, this is a missed opportunity to positively impact their lives through good nutrition.
It is important to us at Nestlé to produce nutritious, delicious foods and support efforts to tackle public health challenges worldwide. Providing quality, micronutrient-fortified products for both children and adults is just one way we at Nestlé are enhancing quality of life and contributing to a healthier future.
Patricia leads a team of researchers working on micronutrient fortification at Nestlé Research Centre in Lausanne. She is a registered dietician and holds an MBA from Purdue University in the US.Follow Patricia on LinkedIn