Biofortification-To Overcome Malnutrition

3 min read

By: Dr. Shweta, Deptt. of Genetics & Plant Breeding C.S. Azad Univ. of Agril. & Tech. Kanpur & Sr. Associate Editor-ICN

KANPUR: Biofortification is the process by which the nutritional quality of food crops is improved for a feasible and cost-effective means of delivering micronutrients to populations that may have limited access to diverse diets and other micronutrient interventions.This isagriculture-based method of addressing micronutrient deficiency through plant breeding works.All over the world people in farm households in developing countries are now growing and co mmmnsuming biofortified crops.

Micronutrient deficiencies afflict quite 2 billion people, or one in three people, globally. Such deficiencies occur when intake and absorption of vitamins and minerals are too low to sustain good health and development.

Micronutrient malnutrition has also an important impact on individual’s health systems. Preschool children less than 5 years of age and women of reproductive age are most affected by vitamin and mineral malnutrition. The most common deficiencies are vitamin A, folate, iron, iodine and zinc.

Anaemia, due to iron deficiency is highly prevalent worldwide. Vitamin A deficiency is main cause of blindness in children. It may also increase the risk of morbidity and mortality from severe infections. Zinc deficiency can cause stunting, as it restricts growth and decreases resistance to infections.

Iodine deficiency in pregnancy and during childhood is a leading cause of preventable mental retardation around the world, due to impaired growth and brain development. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with bone health and diabetes.

Biofortification may be a method of accelerating the density of vitamins and minerals in a very crop through plant breeding, transgenic techniques, or agronomic practices. Biofortified staple crops, when consumed regularly, will generate measurable improvements in human health and nutrition.

Biofortified crops are also a feasible means of reaching rural populations who may have limited access to diverse diets or other micronutrient interventions. Target micronutrient levels for biofortified crops are set to meet the specific dietary needs of women and children, based on existing consumption patterns.

Biofortification puts a solution in the hands of farmers, combining the micronutrient trait with other agronomic and consumption traits that farmers prefer. After fulfilling the household’s food needs, surplus biofortified crops make their way into rural and urban retail outlets. Nutritionists also study the degree to which nutrients bred into crops are absorbed. Some foods are fortified with vitamins and minerals that may help to meet the nutrient needs.

Examples of vitamins and minerals in fortified foods are:

  • Vitamin D – Fluid milk, including fat-free and low-fat milk, is typically fortified with vitamin D. Yogurt may also be fortified with vitamin D. Some calcium-fortified fruit juices and soybean milk (soy beverage) even have vitamin D value-added.
  • Iodine – Some salt is fortified with iodine, an essential mineral.
  • Folic acid – Enriched bread, flour, pasta, rice, and other grain products are fortified with folic acid.
  • Many ready-to-eat cereals also are fortified with vitamin M.
  • Iron – Some ready-to-eat and cooked cereals are fortified with iron.

Biofortification might thus gift the simplest way to achieve populations wherever supplementation and standard fortification activities is also tough to implement and/or restricted.

Examples of biofortification comes include:

  • iron-biofortification of rice, beans, sweet potato, cassava and legumes;
  • zinc-biofortification of wheat, rice, beans, sweet potato and maize;
  • provitamin A carotenoid-biofortification of sweet potato, maize and cassava; and
  • amino acid and protein-biofortification of sorghum and cassava.

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