This would be the first time that most people would hear the term but micronutrient deficiency is a global problem. In fact, the UNICEF and the Asian Development Bank has been actively involved in addressing the problem in places around the world where there’s higher incidence of the deficiency. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) says that, globally, “the three deficiencies of greatest public health significance are those of vitamin A, iron and iodine.” Two out of these three nutrients are found in Moringa Oleifera, also known as Malunggay in the Philippines where the government has been actively promoting the inclusion of Malunggay in the diet of Filipino children based on a National Nutrition Survey conducted in 2008 by the country's Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI).
The research by the FNRI and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) led by Miss Leah A. Perlas evaluated the consumption of widely-available vegetables in the country. Including the Malunggay which is often added in popular Filipino soup dishes like Chicken Tinola and Chicken Binakol. Packed with Iron, vitamin A, B-vitamins, calcium and other micronutrients, Malunggay is recognized as a potent food source that can help ease micronutrient deficiency, helping it gain popularity as a "wonder vegetable".
Through scientific research and product development, Malunggay is now widely-available to the public fresh and raw or dried. In the Philippines, the FNRI used Malunggay Leaves Powder (MLP) in their research because it was the easiest to blend with dishes without altering its taste. The study included 121 school children 8 to 12 years old who were underweight, anemic, or both. The subjects were then divided into two groups, and for 120 days half of the group was fed with snack foods containing 3 grams of MLP, while the other group was given non-MLP fortified preparations. Traditional food like Arroz Caldo, Ginataang Mais, Macaroni Soup, Pancit Canton, and Polvoron were selected as snacks served to children under the supervision of the researchers to ensure validity and accuracy of the study.
After 3 months, they learned that the children who consumed MLP-fortified snack foods recorded an increase in their vitamin A intake, height, weight, hemoglobin levels and serum, and red cell folate compared to those who consumed non-MLP-fortified snacks. Both groups had increased retinol levels while no effect was observed in terms of their riboflavin and calcium parameters. Retinol is preformed vitamin A present only in animal foods. Nonetheless, more than half of the MLP group that was classified as “severely thin” displayed better improvement in their nutritional status compared to the non-MLP group. The findings of the study support Malunggay's potential in improving the micronutrient levels in a child's diet with just 3 grams of Malunggay Leaves Powder. Of course, in addition to the proven health benefits of Malunggay it’s even better if children are given a wide variety of nutritious food, love, and care that will give them the best opportunity to grow up strong and healthy.