When proteins supplements were fed to Central American schoolchildren, their height and weight did not achieve the standard for their age - it seemed that they could never make up for the arrested development of their earliest years. But when protein supplements were given to pre-school children, the results were dramatic: the children gained weight and grew rapidly.
Let nothing which can be treated by diet
be treated by other means. (Maimonides)
Evidence accumulated that early protein supplements also developed resistance to disease. Back in the 60's and for three years, three rural Indian villages in Guatemala served as a testing ground for INCAP scientists (Institute of Nutrition for Central America and Panama). In one village they gave protein supplements to all children under 5 years of age. In another, they paid no attention to nutrition but made every effort to prevent infection by improving sanitation - whenever a young child fell ill they gave him prompt treatment. The third village in which nothing was done, served as control.
In the middle of the experiment an epidemic of measles broke out. Each village had 40 to 60 cases among the children under study. In the control village five children died of the disease; in the village where only medical treatment was provided, the rate was equally high. But among the children who received protein supplements, there was not a single fatality!
In an effort to get protein supplements into wider use, special care was taken to observe local customs and taboos. In Guatemala milk and eggs were regarded as "man's food", "too heavy" for small stomachs. Whatever milk and eggs a poor family could get were reserved for the father and for children over five. The youngest were thus deprived of proteins at the time they needed them most...
Their mothers were giving them hot drinks called "atoles", made by boiling grown-up corn in water, and adding sugar, anise, cinnamon or chocolate flavors. Of course this tasty drink had very low protein value. INCAP began advertising a better atole made in exactly the same way but with protein supplements.
However the price for this new atole was too high for the average peasant family, so scientists suggested more imaginative ways of increasing the supply of their protein supplement.