News / Africa

Scientists Suggest Adding Selenium to Diets in Malawi

x

Multimedia

Audio
Kim Lewis
Scientists say adding a naturally-occurring mineral to fertilizers could help reduce disease and death among Malawians.   It’s all part of an international study conducted by researchers at the University of Nottingham in the U.K. on the nutritional value of soil in Malawi.  The report has found that dietary deficiency of the mineral selenium, which plays a vital role in keeping the immune system healthy, is endemic in Malawi.  

The study, which was published in the journal Scientific Reports, found that most Malawi soils do not have an adequate amount of selenium required for human nutrition. In the report, researchers are calling for further investigation into the benefits and costs of enriching crops with selenium through fertilizers. 

Dr. Martin Broadley, one of the lead researcher of the study at the University of Nottingham’s school of biosciences said, “one of the issues is the natural acidity of the soil in Malawi and in many areas.  So it may be that there is rather a lot of selenium around in terms of the total concentration in the soil, but in terms of the amount of selenium that is available to be taken up by plants, that could be very, very low.”     

The study examined the diet and nutritional status of a total of 120 relatively healthy women between 18 and 50 years of age living in villages in Zombwe in northern Malawi and Mikalango in the south.

“It was a joint study with several collaborating groups in Malawi itself, and we were working with the Ministry of Health, and with Lilongwe University. Our colleagues from those organizations spent a period of time in the homes of volunteers from two different regions:  one region where the soils were very, very acidic, and where we had previously observed very low transfer of the element  selenium into the local crop, and one area where the soils were much more alkaline,” explained Broadley.

“Our colleagues,” he continued, “spent time and a period of 24 hours with each of the volunteers of the study and were able to collect samples of food and drink that were consumed in the home over that period.  And we were also able to collect blood and urine samples from the volunteers.”

Generally speaking, scientists have found that a lack of proper levels of selenium in the body adversely affects the immune system.  As a result, people tend to be more susceptible to infectious diseases and cardiovascular problems.  One example of where enriched crops are showing success is in Finland.

“For the past 30 years, they have been using micronutrients, enriched fertilizers, to make sure that adequate levels of selenium were going into the diet.  So the technology is in place.  What isn’t known is the benefit cost of analysis of adopting something like this approach, said Broadley.

In Malawi, the staple maize, dominates the diet.  But, Broadley said the key to a healthier diet and to getting more selenium is to eat a larger variety of foods.

“People have to try and diversify their diets as much as possible, and that may mean trying to eat more fish, or more animal produce of some description, or more vegetables, or more nuts—that type of thing, which general have high levels of selenium in them.  And we’re going to be a long way short of adequate intakes without some radical changes in the intakes of the Malawi population.  And, again, you are dealing with a situation in Malawi where many people are living on extremely low income levels, and don’t have access to sufficient purchasing power to be able to afford to buy such a diverse range of foods,” Broadley explained.  

He also pointed out that a lot more research needs to be conducted to identify whether the cost of adding or changing the existing fertilizer practices in Malawi would be the most beneficial approach to improving the nutritional value of crops.

You May Like

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs