Micronutrient malnutrition

Micronutrient malnutrition

In our work, we are driven by a vision of a world without deficiencies of vitamins and minerals. Particularly in low-income and emerging countries, deficiencies of iron, zinc, vitamin A and iodine are widespread, causing mortality, morbidity, impaired growth, lagging education and reduced work productivity. The most affected groups are young children, pregnant women and adolescent girls.

Our aim is to find innovative and acceptable interventions to improve micronutrition status of these vulnerable groups. Most of our work is in Africa and Asia. Although our primary focus is on food-based approaches such as dietary diversity, (bio)fortification and food fortification, we also conduct studies with nutritional supplements. Outcome measures include the acceptability of interventions, growth, infectious disease occurrence and other outcomes (e.g., gut permeability, nutrient absorption and bioavailability, cognitive development, well-being).

With a view to improve intervention efficacy, we also investigate to what extent the response to interventions is determined by biological (e.g. gene-micronutrient interactions), environmental (e.g. infectious diseases, agriculture) and behavioural (e.g. food choice) factors, including development and testing of (early) indicators. In accordance with the nature of our work, we routinely collaborate with specialists in a wide range of disciplines, from plant breeders to tropical paediatricians.

Large projects

Other projects

Bioconversion of dietary pro-vitamin A to retinol

Vitamin A deficiency is a major nutritional burden in Sub-Saharan Africa, where diets are generally void of retinol. The bioavailability of plant-based derived pro-vitamin A carotenoids, especially of β-carotene, is low, but accurate pro-vitamin A bioequivalence values for mixed African diets do not exist. Genetic factors responsible for the conversion of pro-vitamin A to retinol in the human body are also important, since these seem to differ between Africans and Caucasians. Accurate bioequivalence values are important for setting dietary recommendations, designing interventions and formulating effective policies that fit in the context. The main aim of this study is to determine the bioequivalence of pro-vitamin A carotenoids from an indigenous African diet. For this, a novel isotope dilution technique is being developed.

Completed projects

Key publications