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Researchers from Stanford University suggest that incorporating zinc into the soil may contribute to preventing premature growth impairment in children. According to a study published in Scientific Journals, youngsters facing malnutrition or persistent undernourishment frequently encounter childhood stunting and impaired cognitive development.

Inadequate nutrition causes stunted growth

In countries such as India, more than a third of children under five suffer from stunted growth due to inadequate nutrition, leading to academic underperformance and higher susceptibility to diseases. Researchers propose enriching farmland soil with minerals as a potential solution to mitigate this issue.

The study led by Claire Morton from Stanford University suggests that interventions such as micronutrient-enriched fertilizers could positively impact health. While it doesn’t confirm cost-effectiveness for India, it highlights the potential value of testing such interventions.

Stanford researchers analyzed the health of approximately 300,000 children and one million women in India, alongside data from 27 million soil tests conducted nationwide. Their findings revealed that zinc-rich soil was associated with lower rates of childhood stunting, while iron-rich soil helped sustain hemoglobin levels, crucial for oxygen transportation in red blood cells.

Improving zinc levels in soil can reduce stunted growth

The discoveries contribute to an expanding body of research on the correlation between soil zinc levels and the growth rates of adolescents. For instance, a slight uptick in zinc content in the soil resulted in a reduction of approximately 11 children per 1,000 instances of childhood stunting. As suggested by the authors, a plausible health intervention could involve farmers incorporating zinc-enriched fertilizers into their agricultural practices to cultivate food and other crops.

David Lobell, Director of Stanford’s Center on Food Security and the Environment and a professor of Earth system science in the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability said that they’re not implying that geography dictates outcomes, yet it appears that soil composition significantly influences child well-being. Even if its impact is marginal, comprehending this connection may lead to more effective strategies for addressing child stunting in India, a formidable and enduring obstacle in the realm of global food security.