News / Health

Study: Biofortified Millet Fights Iron Deficiency

A woman winnows high-iron Dhanshakti pearl millet in Andhra Pradesh, India. Photo: Alina Paul-Bossuet (ICRISAT)
A woman winnows high-iron Dhanshakti pearl millet in Andhra Pradesh, India. Photo: Alina Paul-Bossuet (ICRISAT)
Special new breeds of a drought-hardy grain may help reduce iron deficiency among the world’s poor, according to two new studies.

Iron deficiency anemia is the world’s most common nutritional disorder. The World Health Organization says half the pregnant women and two in five preschool children in developing countries are not getting enough iron.

Anemic adults can’t work to their full potential, and pregnant women are more likely to have complications in childbirth. And the effects on young children can permanent, according to pediatrician Michael Hambidge at the University of Colorado.

“One of the things we’re particularly concerned about with children is the major effects it has on brain development, and these are difficult to reverse later in life," said Hambidge.

Hambidge and colleagues tested flour made from a special variety of pearl millet, a grain that is well known in the dry lands of India and West Africa, where drought-tolerant crops are essential.

Researchers had raised the amount of iron in this variety with traditional breeding methods, not genetic modification. The process is called biofortification.

Hambidge’s colleagues in India prepared traditional meals with the biofortified flour and fed them to a group of 21 iron-deficient young children.

“A lot of this is eaten as chapatis and rotis [Indian flatbreads] and so on, but these are two-year-old children, and we found that they particularly liked the porridge," he said.

Children who ate the high-iron millet meals satisfied their daily requirements for the mineral. Nineteen children who ate similar meals made with regular millet did not.

The research was published in the Journal of Nutrition, along with another study of biofortified millet flour, this one in Benin. A group of 20 iron-deficient young women received about 70 percent of their daily requirement from traditional meals made with the biofortified flour. Regular millet, on the other hand, provided only 20 percent.

Pediatric researcher Stephanie Atkinson at McMaster University was not involved in the research. She wants to see larger studies showing high-iron biofortified crops actually do reduce anemia in vulnerable populations. But she says this research shows biofortification is a promising tool.

“It seems like the most logical, practical, feasible, easily deliverable way to get these nutrients that are of the greatest deficiency for the masses of people in underdeveloped countries," said Atkinson.

And experts say millet in particular is a good crop to reach some of the most vulnerable because it is typically cheaper than other grains. Plus, it needs very little rainfall, a growing concern as climate change alters precipitation patterns worldwide.

The first high-iron biofortified pearl millet is already on the market in India, and researchers are working to commercialize other varieties elsewhere in the developing world.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid