The Determinants of Demand For Micronutrients: An Analysis of Rural Households in Bangladesh

Micronutrient deficiencies are particularly severe in Bangladesh. Understanding how household income, food prices, parental education and nutritional knowledge, and culturally based customs and food preferences interact to determine food consumption patterns (particularly for nonstaple foods), and so micronutrient intake, can provide crucial information for designing policies and intervention programs to improve human nutrition. Within the typical dietary patterns of the Bangladeshi survey population, the key food group with respect to micronutrient consumption is vegetables, providing nearly 95 percent of vitamin A intake, 75 percent of vitamin C intake, and 25 percent of iron intake. Vegetables are the least expensive sources of all of these nutrients. Vegetables are sufficiently inexpensive sources of vitamin A and vitamin C that they could provide the RDA within normal dietary patterns and the budgets of low-income groups. There is no corresponding inexpensive source of iron. Programs to educate consumers about the importance of meeting recommended daily allowances of vitamin A and vitamin C and about commonly eaten sources of these nutrients has the potential for improving intake. Because a high proportion of vitamin A and vitamin C intake apparently comes from own-production, extension programs to promote growing specific vitamin A and vitamin C rich foods not only would provide households with a ready supply of these nutrients, but increased production could bring the local price down. In contrast, it is much more difficult to see how these types of education and extension programs could be effective in increasing iron intake, because sources of bioavailable iron are expensive. Fortification or supplementation may be the best policies for solving the low iron intake problem in the short to medium run, depending on the costs and feasibility of successful implementation in specific circumstances. There is clear evidence that adult males are given preference in the intrahousehold distribution of certain micronutrient-dense foods (milk, eggs, and meat) while other micronutrient-dense foods (e.g., fish and vegetables) are more equitably distributed. Ceteris paribus, agricultural production programs aimed at more equitably distributed foods (e.g., fish and vegetables) will have a greater impact on the nutrient intake of women and children who are at greatest risk for micronutrient deficiencies.

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 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-08-25

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