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

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid