After four months of intensive experimentation, the end-of-study data from the NutriLao trial will provide the research team with a clearer picture of the nutritional benefits of eating Nyim Vanh cereal bars ("sweet smile" in Lao) for women of childbearing age. These complementary foods are an initial response to the major issues of food insecurity and diversity, which affect both children's and mothers' health in Laos.

Since December 2023, 300 women of childbearing age from four rural communities in Vientiane province, Lao People's Democratic Republic (Lao PDR), have joined the study and consume daily a Nyim Vanh cereal bar. Produced locally by the social company Maï Savanh Lao and enriched with vitamins and minerals, their recipe is based on the results of an earlier acceptability study carried out on a random sample of mothers and children in the four NutriLao communities. Data collection, which started today, will enable the study team to assess whether these bars help to improve participants' micronutrient status (zinc and vitamin A in particular) and haemoglobin levels.

To do so, many indicators are required. After an initial rigorous recruitment and preliminary analysis phase, the study participants started receiving packets of cereal bars every two weeks. During this process, the study team regularly encouraged their daily consumption. In the final stage, the analysis measures (blood, stool, anthropometry, dietary diversity questionnaire) were repeated. Obtaining accurate data therefore required strict adherence to standardised data collection techniques throughout the study.

Contact list:

Jacques Berger, research director at IRD
Eric Deharo, research director at IRD​​​​​​​
Marco Haenssgen, Assistant Professor in Social Science and Development at Chiang Mai University​​​​​​​
Frank Wieringa, research officer at IRD

  • Project partners and funding

    The NutriLao project – also known by its official title as “Development of locally produced, ready to use supplements to improve nutritional status of vulnerable groups in Lao” – is led by IRD researchers, along with researchers from the University of Health Sciences (Vientiane, Lao PDR) and Chiang Mai University (Thailand). This study is made possible thanks to the IMMANA* project research team and the medical team of Dr Vatthanaphone Latthaphasavang from the Mahosol Central Hospital (Vientiane, Lao PDR) and builds on the nutritional cereal bars produced by the social enterprise Maï Savanh Lao with whom the researchers cooperate closely. This project is supported by the Fonds d'Innovation pour le Développement (FID).

    *The IMMANA-funded project ‘Activity Spaces and Household Exclusion from Food Environments’ is led by the University of Reading in collaboration with IRD Laos and Chiang Mai University and supported by a £249,000 award from the Innovative Methods and Metrics for Agriculture and Nutrition Actions (IMMANA) programme – coordinated by the London School for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene and co-funded with UK Aid from the UK government through the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.