An agency dedicated to better nutrition said that it would start adding vitamins and minerals to the food of some of the world's poorest people, in a bid to improve their health and thus help them escape poverty.
The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN)said it would shortly launch projects in China, Morocco, Vietnam and South Africa to fortify staple foods with iron, iodine, vitamin A, folic acid and other vitamins and minerals.
Research has shown that the addition of iodine to salt can sharply cut mental retardation -- a common problem in countries whose people have a poor diet. Vitamin A can greatly reduce childhood blindness, suffered by millions of children around the world. Many other health problems that are common in poor countries, such as fetal death and anemia, could be reduced if people take more basic vitamins and minerals.
The GAIN projects, which will be extended as other poor nations identify their nutritional problems and develop plans to tackle them, aim to improve health while cutting health care costs.
It is also hoped they will help raise productivity and give people a better chance to escape the poverty trap to which many in the developing world are condemned.
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