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

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid