Micronutrient status of Palestinian school children following salt and flour fortification: a cross-sectional study

Massad, Salwa; Gebre-Medhin, Mehari; Dary, Omar; Abdalla, Marwah; Holleran, Steve; Karmally, Wahida; Bordelois, Paula; Khammash, Umaiyeh; Deckelbaum, Richard J.

In 1996 and in 2006, Palestine initiated salt iodization and multiple micronutrient fortification of wheat flour, respectively as a strategy to prevent deficiencies of these nutrients. In 2009, we assessed the impact of these interventions on the health and nutritional status of schoolchildren residing in the West Bank.

We surveyed a sample of 22 schools run by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and the Palestinian Government. We randomly selected students from the first (mean age 6.7 years [SD 0.5]), sixth (11.8 years [0.6]), and ninth grades (14.8 years [0.6]). Data were obtained from 1484 (99%) of 1500 students planned for enrollment.

Our results suggest that iodine intake appears adequate and there was essentially no iodine deficiency. As to the status of other micronutrients, the main nutritional micronutrient risks for schoolchildren in the West Bank continue to be low serum levels of iron, zinc, and vitamin B-12; folate levels were seemingly high. The overall prevalence of anemia was 9.6%, but there were pockets of anemia in certain districts. Almost 42% of the anemia in our sample was explained by iron deficiency. There were significant differences in iron deficiency between girls and boys, 29.5% vs. 15.7%, respectively (p = 0.0001). There were no cases of lead toxicity in the studied sample.

Wheat flour and salt fortification has had a major influence on improving the micronutrient status of Palestinian children, for some but not all micronutrients. The recommended key blood and biochemical parameters to be incorporated in the surveillance system are iron, zinc, and vitamin B12.


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August 10, 2022


Palestine, Children, Micronutrient, Anemia, Fortification