Nutrition project focuses on slum children in India
Researchers in Southampton are investigating if a nutritious cereal bar given to women in the slums of Mumbai can improve the long-term health of their children.
Run by the epidemiology centre, which looks at health trends across the world, the interventional study gives women a snack high in essential nutrients twice a day, at least three months before they get pregnant, during pregnancy and follow them up when their child is born.
Sarah Kehoe, senior researcher at the University of Southampton, said: “In Mumbai alone, more than 26,000 children will die each year from malnutrition. The source of nutrition for a baby is its mother so any intervention to help the child must centre on her.”
The project is based on a previous observational study that analysed women’s diet and showed those who drank more milk and ate more fruit and greens had healthier babies with greater body mass and composition.
Sarah added: “The unique factor in this study is assessing the health of the mother before she even has her child. We are looking at whether or not you can change health outcomes with just food and if intervening before pregnancy makes a difference to a child’s future.
“We have funding for five more years and hope to follow these children even longer, the last baby was born in April and we look forward to assessing the results. Too many children die of malnutrition in this area of the world and we hope the evidence we gather will help advise the government and influence policy.”
More than 7,000 Indian women are involved in the study, which has been running since 2006. There is a 50/50 split with a control group, who have a similar-looking food product with low nutritional value.