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Rising food prices harm nutrition

WASHINGTON U.-ST. LOUIS (US) — The rising cost of food, especially fruits and vegetables, has a critical impact on nutrition intake, especially in, but not excluded to, emerging countries.

“Coupled with the financial crisis, high food prices can take a significant toll on nutrition, especially in developing countries,” says Lora Iannotti, public health expert and professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

“The same consequences can be true for wealthier countries, as households opt for less expensive, poor quality foods. Hidden hunger is a problem across the globe.”

Iannotti and Miguel Robles from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) examined the effects of food price hikes on calorie consumption in seven Latin American countries.

Details will be published in the journal Food and Nutrition Bulletin.

“During a food price crisis, households moved away from ‘luxury’ food items such as meat, fish and dairy products to poorer quality food,” she says.

Data from nationally representative household budget surveys show that during a food crisis, calorie intake is reduced by an average eight percent from pre-crisis levels, equally affecting rural and urban areas.

“We are particularly concerned for families with young children,” Iannotti says. “When you have a reduction in calories and critical nutrients for kids under 2, there are long term consequences such as stunted growth, cognitive deficits, lower educational attainment, and reduced future productivity.”

The next phase of her study will focus on how a food price crisis impacts micronutrient consumption, specifically vitamin B12, iron, zinc and folate.

More news from Washington University in St. Louis: http://news-info.wustl.edu/

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