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New Diet Supplement to Combat Malnutrition
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China will encourage food firms to add nutritional supplements to food in efforts to combat malnutrition, a health official has said.

The government will encourage the food industry to use oligo-elements as supplements in food products because they have a positive impact on human nutrition, said Yu Xiaodong, director of the National Public Nutrition and Development Center.

Experts say that very small amounts of oligo-elements are present inside the human body, but they play a major role in metabolic reactions. The most significant are iron, zinc, copper, chromium and cobalt.

"Chinese people are eating too much refined grain and consuming too many antibiotics. And of course environmental pollution is getting worse," Yu said.

"The addition of oligo-elements can greatly promote the growth and reproduction of intestinal flora, which play an important role in human health," said Kang Bai, chief expert on microbiology.

A recent World Bank report warned that malnutrition can shave three percent off a poor country's gross domestic product.

"Chinese are eating more and more high-fat, oil-rich food but less cereal and grain, resulting in an array of health problems," said Pan Beilei, deputy director of the government-affiliated State Food and Nutrition Consultancy Committee.

Statistics from the Health Ministry show that about 160 million of China's 1.3 billion people suffer from high blood pressure, compared with just 90 million in 1991. China also has 20 million diabetes sufferers, more than any other country.

China legislated to add iodine to salt in 1996 at a time when less than 40 percent of salt contained iodine. Today, more than 95 percent of the population eats inexpensive iodine-enhanced salt, according to a Health Ministry report.

The government has also introduced fortified flour and oil to improve national health standards.

(Xinhua News Agency December 20, 2006)

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