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Plant breeding for nutrition-sensitive agriculture: an appraisal of developments in plant breeding - Christinck & Weltzien (2013) - Food Sec

Plant breeding for nutrition-sensitive agriculture: an appraisal of developments in plant breeding - Christinck & Weltzien (2013) - Food Sec | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

Plant breeding for nutrition-sensitive agriculture (NSA) has to address the various aspects of food and nutrition security by taking on an integrated approach. In our article, we summarize past and current developments in plant breeding that are relevant to nutrition in this broader context. We outline how plant breeding can contribute to availability of, access to and utilization of food, and give examples of how the concept of NSA is differently addressed in selected plant breeding projects.

 

Effective targeting towards the needs of vulnerable groups seems to be a key success factor. Differences exist with regard to the underlying concept of technology diffusion, the importance given to agrobiodiversity for improving food and nutrition security, and the degree and quality of participation of target groups...

 

Commercial breeding needs to be complemented by other initiatives and institutions that focus particularly on food and nutrition security of vulnerable groups. Any efforts to further harmonize agricultural, nutrition, health, environmental, and educational policies, also with international policy frameworks and obligations, could help to create an enabling policy environment for NSA... 

 

Food fortification in general means enriching basic foods with particular micronutrients, mostly vitamins or minerals, such as iron. However, this requires industrial processing of food and functioning food distribution systems - and presupposes that the target group has access to such food systems. Biofortification could help to overcome this bottleneck, as the food harvested would already contain the critical nutrients, irrespective of further processing and distribution pathways... 

 

In fact, biofortification efforts have been successful in various crops – in the sense that the micronutrient content of some crop varieties has been increased. The most renowned outcome is the successful development of an orange-fleshed sweet potato variety with higher ß-carotene content, which has been introduced to farmers in Mozambique and Uganda, resulting in documented higher levels of Vitamin A intake of children and other vulnerable groups. 

 

Biofortification may sound like a special breeding technology, which, in fact, it is not: basically, it means nothing more than including a nutritional objective into a breeding program. It thus includes the normal steps of a conventional breeding program... 

 

As it does not seem to be realistic to grow one and the same variety of a crop worldwide, the solution is seen in backcrossing the newly bred HarvestPlus varieties with locally adapted or existing commercial varieties in the target regions. HarvestPlus thus relies on the breeding expertise of the CG centers and their partners in the national agriculture research programs (NARS), and allies with NGOs, government programs and the private sector to reach the target population groups... 

 

The most prominent outcome so far is orange-fleshed sweet potato containing higher levels of ß-carotene, compared to the white-fleshed varieties that are commonly grown in many African countries. The orange-fleshed sweet potatoes were introduced in Mozambique and Uganda in 2007... The adoption rate among the farmers targeted by the project was high, with 77% of farmers continuing to grow OFSP in Mozambique and 65 % in Uganda. Children and women of the participating households consumed OFSP, and Vitamin A deficiencies were reduced with higher intake. For example, OFSP accounted for 78% of the Vitamin A intake of children aged below 3 years in participating households in Mozambique, and 53 % in Uganda... 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

"The most renowned outcome is the successful development of an orange-fleshed sweet potato variety with higher ß-carotene content... resulting in documented higher levels of Vitamin A intake of children and other vulnerable groups... compared to the white-fleshed varieties that are commonly grown in many African countries." >> Different colour in crops need not be an unsurmountable problem...

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Rethinking the measurement of undernutrition in a broader health context - Stein (2013) - IFPRI

Rethinking the measurement of undernutrition in a broader health context - Stein (2013) - IFPRI | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

Researchers and policymakers are paying increasing attention to the nexus of hunger, malnutrition, and public health, and to the related measurement of food and nutrition security. However, focusing on proxy indicators, such as food availability, and on selected head count figures, such as stunting rates, gives an incomplete picture.


In contrast, global burden of disease (GBD) studies are outcome based, they follow an established methodology, and their results can be used to derive and monitor the burden of chronic and hidden hunger (undernutrition) at the global level. Judging by this measure, the international goal of halving global hunger between 1990 and 2015 has already been achieved—which is in stark contrast to the picture that emerges if the first Millennium Development Goal’s indicator for measuring hunger is used.


In view of current discussions of the post-2015 development agenda, this discrepancy highlights the need to choose carefully the indicators that are used for operationalizing any new set of goals. Better access to existing data, a more detailed coverage of nutrition-related health outcomes, and more frequent updates of GBD studies would facilitate further analyses and the monitoring of global food and nutrition security.


While the disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) that are used as a health metric inGBD studies may be somewhat abstract, they can be converted tentatively into more easily understood monetary terms using per capita income figures. The resulting preferred estimate of the annual cost of global hunger in all its forms of 1.9 trillion international dollars may be better suited to illustrate the magnitude of remaining food and nutrition insecurity worldwide. Despite the progress that has been made so far in reducing global hunger, the problem is still huge and its eradication requires continued efforts. 


http://www.ifpri.org/publication/rethinking-measurement-undernutrition-broader-health-context

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Household food insecurity and dietary diversity as correlates of maternal and child undernutrition in rural Cambodia - McDonald &al (2014) - Europ J Clinical Nutr

To assess household food insecurity and dietary diversity as correlates of maternal and child anthropometric status and anemia... Trained interviewers administered a survey to 900 households in four rural districts of... Cambodia.


The Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS) and Household Dietary Diversity Score (HDDS) were used to assess household food insecurity and dietary diversity. The height, weight and hemoglobin concentration of the mother and youngest child under 5 years in each household were measured.


Multivariate logistic regression models were constructed to assess the association between household food insecurity and dietary diversity, and child stunting and wasting, maternal thinness, maternal and child anemia... 

 

The risk of maternal thinness, but not child stunting or wasting, increased as the severity of household food insecurity increased. Household food insecurity was also positively associated with maternal, but not child, anemia. Household dietary diversity status was not significantly associated with any of the outcomes we assessed.

 

Efforts to improve household food security are important as a means of promoting maternal nutritional status; however, additional research is needed to better understand the role of other factors that are driving the burden of child undernutrition... 

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2014.161

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

"The risk of maternal thinness, but not child stunting or wasting, increased as the severity of household food insecurity increased. Household food insecurity was also positively associated with maternal, but not child, anemia. Household dietary diversity status was not significantly associated with any of the outcomes we assessed." >> It seems that the use of proxy indicators for food security does not correlate too well with the actual outcomes of undernutrition... 

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How much does a healthy diet actually cost? - PLOS (2014)

How much does a healthy diet actually cost? -  PLOS (2014) | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

We’re all told to eat 5... servings of fruit & veg per day, to cut down on fatty red meat, eat lean proteins, and whole grains. We’re told to cut down on processed and packaged foods, and refined sugars. These are good things. However, clever marketing schemes have also added fashionable trends like gluten-free products, so-called ‘superfoods’, and organic products into the mix... But, how much does it actually cost to eat in a truly healthful way?

 

In a world where the food industry dictates the types of food available (or not) to people, where ‘food deserts’ are found impoverished pockets of urban centres, and where Western countries are, on the whole, over-fed and under-nutrified with many developing countries not far behind, you begin to wonder how money plays into the complex dietary landscape.

 

New research... has set out to answer this question. The researchers characterised six different types of eating patterns typical in the UK... 

 

The researchers then used a food cost database to estimate the daily price of each type of diet. The findings were striking: the cost of each type of eating pattern steadily increased with how healthy it was. The... most nutrient poor... was estimated to cost £3.29 (approx. $5.56 USD) per day, while the ‘Health Conscious’ diet cost over double that, at £6.63 (approx. $11.21 USD) per day. Over the course of a year, that’s a difference of £1219.10, or $2061.50, for just one person.

 

This difference has huge implications: it highlights the disparity between the rich and poor in accessing nutrient-rich and high-quality foods, even within wealthy countries. A difference of £3.34 or $5.65 per day might not mean much a good proportion of the UK’s or America’s population, but it means a lot to the most vulnerable groups who can’t afford it. 

 

Another, larger investigation... came out with similar figures using data from 10 countries... For individual food items, they found the biggest price differences between healthy and unhealthy meats/proteins (e.g. lean vs. high-fat ground beef), at $0.29 per serving, or $0.47 per 200 kcal... Overall, having a more healthy diet (at 2000 kcal per day) was estimated to cost about $1.50 more per day than an unhealthy diet. Overall, that’s a difference of $547.50 in one year... 


‘The research shows that a healthy diet is affordable for most people... given that “for 60 percent to 70 percent of Americans, $1.50 per day is not a big deal.” Nevertheless... it is a “big barrier” for the remaining 30 percent to 40 percent of the population – even though the economic costs of chronic diseases related to poor diet vastly exceed the higher price of healthy food.’ ... 


However, it isn’t necessary to exhaust your finances in order to eat well. For one thing, ‘superfoods’ are not essential, and the nutrients they provide can be found for much cheaper in other produce options. For example, broccoli contains chlorophyll, vitamins A, C, and E, iron, and calcium. Moreover, it is easy to find and it is cheap... 

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Lentils provide breakthrough in disease prevention - Medical Xpress (2014)

Lentils provide breakthrough in disease prevention - Medical Xpress (2014) | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

Preventing a global deficiency of the essential mineral and micronutrient in humans called selenium, which has been linked to the possible incidence of some diseases, including some cancers...


More than one billion people globally suffer from selenium deficiency due to low dietary intake in countries where soil selenium levels are low such as Australia, New Zealand and Bangladesh.

 

PhD student Mahmudur Rahman from Bangladesh and his supervisors Hackett Professor Kadambot Siddique and Professor William Erskine have developed a way of increasing the concentration of selenium in lentil seed, a concept known as biofortification... 

 

Applying 40grams per hectare (g/ha) of selenium directly on lentil plants during its reproductive stage increased its concentration in the seeds by more than 10 times from 200 micrograms per kilogram (μg/kg) to 2772 μg/kg.


"Our research shows that without changing food habits, biofortified lentils would provide adequate dietary selenium to people living in countries where soil selenium levels are low... This means that eating just 20g of biofortified lentils can supply all of the recommended daily allowance of selenium." ... 

 

"The research found that genetic variation in lentils does affect the amount of uptake and concentration of selenium and therefore there is an opportunity to breed and select for improved varieties with selenium seed concentration" ... 


http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-08-lentils-breakthrough-disease.html


Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0021859614000495


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Development of an Iron-enriched High-yieldings Indica Rice Cultivar by Introgression of A High-iron Trait from Transgenic Iron-biofortified Rice - Paul &al (2014) - Plant Foods Hum Nutr

Development of an Iron-enriched High-yieldings Indica Rice Cultivar by Introgression of A High-iron Trait from Transgenic Iron-biofortified Rice - Paul &al (2014) - Plant Foods Hum Nutr | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

Low level of iron in staple food crops is one reason for the predominance of iron-deficiency anemia in developing countries. Most of the iron in rice grains accumulates in the outer aleurone layer and embryo, which are removed during milling, and the edible endosperm contains very low amounts of iron.

 

In an effort to increase iron nutrition, we report here the transgene introgression of a high-iron trait into a high-yielding indica rice cultivar. The ferritin gene from soybean (soyfer1) was introduced into rice plants through interbreeding between soybean ferritin-overexpressing transgenic IR68144 and the high-yielding cultivar Swarna.

 

The stable integration of the soyfer1 gene was confirmed in the BC2F4 generation, and the hybrid seeds showed 2.6-fold soybean ferritin gene expression over the recurrent parent Swarna. The hybrid milled seeds revealed a 2.54-fold increase in iron and 1.54-fold increase in zinc compared to Swarna...

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11130-014-0431-z

 

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Stunting: The Cruel Curse of Malnutrition in Nepal - IPS (2014)

Stunting: The Cruel Curse of Malnutrition in Nepal - IPS (2014) | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

Durga Ghimire had her first child at the age of 18 and the second at 21. As a young mother, Durga didn’t really understand the importance of taking care of her own health during pregnancy. “I didn’t realise it would have an impact on my baby” ... It is late in the afternoon and she is waiting expectantly for her two older daughters to return from school. One is nine and the other is six, but they look much smaller than their actual age.

 

“They are smaller in height and build and teachers at school say their learning process is also much slower”... She is worried that the girls are stunted, and is trying to ensure her third child gets proper care... UNICEF explains stunting as chronic under-nutrition during critical periods of growth and development between the ages of 0-59 months. The consequences of stunting are irreversible and in Nepal the condition affects 41 percent of children under the age of five...

 

“Reducing stunting among children increases their chances of reaching their full development potential, which in turn will have a long-term impact on families’, communities’ and the country’s ability to thrive.”

Child health and nutrition experts argue that, while poverty is directly related to inadequate intake of food, it is not the sole indicator of malnutrition or increased stunting... the immediate causes include poor nutrient intake, particularly early in life. Fifty percent of stunting happens during pregnancy and the rest after infants are born.

 

“When we are talking about nutrient-rich food […] we are talking about ensuring that children get enough of it even before they are born” ... Thus it is incumbent on expecting mothers to follow a careful diet 

 

In preparation for her daughter’s feeding time, Ghimire mixes together a bowl of homemade leeto, a porridge containing one-part whole grains such as millet or wheat and two-parts pulses such as beans or soy.

“I was only using grains to make the leeto before I was taught to make it properly by the health workers... I had no idea that simple things like washing my hands properly could have such a long term effect on my daughter’s health”... Even seemingly common infections like diarrhoea can, in the first two years, put a child at greater risk of stunting...

 

Experts recognise the need to fight simultaneously on multiple fronts. “Our work in nutrition has proven again and again that a single approach to stunting doesn’t work because the causes are so many – it really has to be tackled in a coordinated way”... In 2009 the government conducted the Nutrition Assessment and Gap Analysis (NAGA), which recommended building a multi-sector nutrition architecture to address the gaps in health and nutrition programmes. 

 

“The NAGA study stated clearly that nutrition was not the responsibility of one department”... Thus, in 2012, five ministries in Nepal came together with the NPC and development partners to form the Multi-Sector Nutrition Plan (MSNP)... Interventions include biannual vitamin D and folic acid supplements for expectant mothers, deworming for children, prenatal care, and life skills for adolescent girls. On the agricultural front, ministries aim to increase the availability of food at the community level through homestead food production, access to clean and cheap energy sources such a biogas and improved cooking stoves, and the education of men to share household loads... 

 

The World Bank has estimated that malnutrition can cause productivity losses of as much as 10 percent of lifetime earnings among the affected, and cause a reduction of up to three percent of a country’s GDP... 

 

http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/07/stunting-the-cruel-curse-of-malnutrition-in-nepal/

 

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Nutritious small fish and vegetables fight hidden hunger in Bangladesh - WorldFish (2014)

Nutritious small fish and vegetables fight hidden hunger in Bangladesh - WorldFish (2014) | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it
‘Hidden hunger’, or micronutrient deficiencies, is widespread throughout Bangladesh, where more than 20 million people, particularly women and children, suffer from chronic deficiencies of vitamin A, iron, and zinc. Micronutrient deficiencies cause irreversible damage in children, stunting their growth and inhibiting their brain development and cognition, making it difficult for them to learn at school and perform at work later in life. While rice is an affordable staple food for the country’s poor, it lacks the vitamins and minerals that are essential for a healthy and balanced diet. Through introducing micronutrient-rich vegetables and small indigenous fish species into the homesteads and diets of rural Bangladeshis, the Cereal Systems Initiative of South Asia in Bangladesh (CSISA-BD) is helping families to increase their income, food security and micronutrient intake.
“We had three meals a day but since we had to buy everything we were only having very simple food... We couldn't afford to give good food to our children because it was difficult to maintain the basic things in life,” recalls Tasbina. Through the project, Tasbina and her husband learnt how to culture mola, an indigenous small fish species, alongside the existing major carps like rui and catla, in their household pond, allowing them to consume fish more often and sell produce at the market...  Orange sweet potato is a nutritious vegetable high in vitamin A that can be grown with other vegetables around the banks of the pond, making it easy to maintain and an efficient use of space... In addition to training sessions on polyculture and farming technologies, the project also focuses on sharing information about the importance of micronutrients for pregnant and lactating women, and introducing complementary foods for infants... Traditionally, infants are fed a thin porridge made from rice powder, which lacks the energy and micronutrients needed for healthy growth and development...  Tasbina and her husband have earned BDT21,045 ($USD271) in profit from the sales of their fish and vegetables over the last year, which has helped them to build a new brick house... http://www.worldfishcenter.org/featured/nutritious-small-fish-and-vegetables-fight-hidden-hunger-bangladesh ;
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Zinc fertilization influence on maize productivity and grain nutritional quality under integrated soil fertility management in Zimbabwe - Manzeke &al (2014) - Field Crops Res

Zinc fertilization influence on maize productivity and grain nutritional quality under integrated soil fertility management in Zimbabwe - Manzeke &al (2014) - Field Crops Res | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

Current efforts to promote integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) for improved productivity of staple cereal crops in sub-Saharan Africa have paid little attention to soil micronutrient deficiencies under smallholder farming. This has not only compromised yields, but also undermined the nutritional quality of harvested grains. To address this knowledge gap, a study was carried out over two cropping seasons in... Zimbabwe to assess the added grain yield and nutritional benefits of zinc (Zn) fertilizer application to maize... under different ISFM options.

 

In all cases, Zn application resulted in added maize grain and quality benefits... The Zn-based treatments increased grain Zn concentration and yield by 67 and 29%, respectively, indicating that there was much more benefit in grain quality than just yield after external Zn application... 

 

It was concluded that benefits of ISFM options currently promoted in smallholder farming systems in Zimbabwe are constrained by soil Zn deficiencies. Combining these ISFM options with Zn fertilizer formulations increased yields and grain quality of the staple maize, enhancing scope for agronomic fortification of maize to enhance human nutrition.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fcr.2014.05.019

 

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Food security: Fertilizing hidden hunger - Müller &al (2014) - Nature Climate Change

Food security: Fertilizing hidden hunger - Müller &al (2014) - Nature Climate Change | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

Atmospheric CO2 fertilization may go some way to compensating the negative impact of climatic changes on crop yields, but it comes at the expense of a deterioration of the current nutritional value of food.

 

A healthy meal is a complex cocktail of macro- and micro-nutrients. Yet, when it comes to discussing diets, we typically consider calories to be the central drivers of hunger and obesity, disregarding other factors. The threat that climate change poses to agricultural productivity and food security around the world... is also usually analysed only in terms of yields and calories. The primary driver of anthropogenic climate change — the emission of CO2 into the atmosphere — has long been known to stimulate photosynthesis and plant growth, an effect that has the potential to compensate much of the negative impact of climate change. This so-called CO2 fertilization increases nitrogen use efficiency, reduces water use, and is especially relevant for stimulating photosynthesis in the large group of C3-plants, which include important crops like wheat, rice and soy.

 

A focus on calories, however, may be greatly misleading when judging whether the effects of CO2 fertilization are beneficial for food security... CO2 fertilization will have negative effects on the nutritional value of many key food crops by reducing the concentrations of essential minerals and protein. This could have serious implications for hunger and health in many parts of the world where the quality of food is just as important as its quantity... 

 

Focusing on the edible part of the plants, they found that zinc and iron contents decrease significantly under CO2 fertilization in all C3-crops studied, whereas C4-crops, like maize and sorghum, are less responsive. Protein content was also found to decrease in all C3-crops that cannot fix additional nitrogen from the atmosphere. Concentrations of other micro-nutrients are affected as well, but the picture is more diverse and hints at complex interactions yet to be understood. Owing to the complexity of plant growth mechanisms and their dependence on environmental conditions and farm management practices, the extent to which CO2 fertilization can help farmers to increase food production remains highly uncertain... 

 

To improve our understanding of risks to food quality, two central challenges need to be tackled. First, CO2 fertilization and its multiple, ambivalent effects on food security need to be better understood and represented in crop models... Second, we need to broaden the scope of modelling to elucidate hidden hunger. This requires moving from a quantities-only perspective to one that includes impacts on nutritional quality, which will involve a new look at non-staple crops... that may become increasingly important in a world of high-calorie, low-quality grains and legumes.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2290

 

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The ‘super’ banana for healthy levels of vitamin A - WaPo (2014)

The ‘super’ banana for healthy levels of vitamin A - WaPo (2014) | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

In half of the world’s countries, vitamin A deficiency is a scourge that leaves disease and death in its wake. Every year, it inflicts between 250,000 and 500,000 helpless and malnourished young people with early-life blindness. And in half of those cases, it also brings death... 

 

Scientists are now working to genetically engineer “super” bananas that are fortified with crucial alpha- and beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A... “Good science can make a massive difference here by enriching staple crops such as Ugandan bananas with pro-vitamin A and providing poor and subsistence-farming populations with nutritionally rewarding food.”

 

Some of the genetically modified cooking bananas are being sent to the United States for their first human trial; scientists aim to have them growing in Uganda by 2020... Lab tests in gerbils have been successful... But in order for the crops to be planted in Uganda, the country’s legislature has to approve a bill allowing genetically modified crops. It is currently in the committee phase...

 

“In West Africa farmers grow plantain bananas and the same technology could easily be transferred to that variety as well... This project has the potential to have a huge positive impact on staple food products across much of Africa and in so doing lift the health and well-being of countless millions of people over generations.”

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2014/06/17/the-super-banana-that-fights-for-truth-justice-and-healthy-levels-of-vitamin-a/

 

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Alexander J. Stein's curator insight, June 25, 6:39 PM

The title of the original article -- "The 'super' banana that fights for truth, justice and healthy levels of vitamin A" -- is yet another example of how journalists' hyperbole can be completely off track and, unfortunately, even do damage to a promising cause: Bananas rich in provitamin A can do a lot to improve levels of vitamin A, but how do they fight for truth and justice? Suggesting so much will only open the door to subsequent accusations that such crops are nothing but empty promises. 

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The hungry and forgotten - Economist (2014)

The hungry and forgotten - Economist (2014) | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

The propaganda message, scrawled in white paint on the side of a wood-frame house, could hardly be more blunt: “Cure stupidity, cure poverty”. The cure for both, in one of China’s poorest counties, seems to be a daily nutritional supplement for children.... If China is to narrow its urban-rural divide, thousands more villages will need to do this much, or more. Widespread malnutrition still threatens to hold back a generation of rural Chinese.

 

China used to have more undernourished people than anywhere in the world except India: about 300m, or 30% of the population in 1980. Economic growth has pulled half of them out of poverty and hunger. But that still leaves about 150m, mainly in the countryside. Out of 88m children... in the poorest rural areas, around a third suffer from anaemia because of a lack of iron...

 

Iron deficiency can stunt brain development, meaning many of these children will grow up ill-equipped to better their lot. “They are far behind compared with urban kids”... Mr Lu and other experts have been prodding the government to do more. The state subsidises school lunches for 23m children in the 680 poorest counties, as well as nutritional supplements for hundreds of thousands of babies. It is not enough.

 

Even where children get the calories they need—as most do in rural China—they are not being fed the right things. In one study... 49% were anaemic and 40% were significantly hampered in developing either cognitive or motor skills. Fewer than one in ten were stunted or wasting, meaning that in most cases the problem was not lack of calories, but lack of nutrients.

 

China... has the resources to respond. Parents have the means to feed their babies properly. And with a relatively modest investment, the government could do a better job of improving childhood nutrition. The difficulties lie in educating parents—and officials. “Babies are probably 50% malnourished” in poor rural areas, says Scott Rozelle, co-director of the Rural Education Action Programme (REAP)... “But almost no mums are malnourished”... 


Mr Lu’s charity and REAP argue that a nutritional supplement called ying yang bao should be available to rural mothers. A powdery concoction of soyabeans, iron, zinc, calcium and vitamins, it is supposed to be sprinkled on food... Each packet costs less than one yuan (16 cents) to produce and one yuan to distribute, paid by the government.

 

Trials... have consistently shown that ying yang bao reduces anaemia and improves growth and development in infants and toddlers. But persuading parents of this (or grandparents...) has not been easy. About half give up feeding it to their children. “Poor people feel very suspicious”... They wonder if free supplements are unsafe, or fake. “Then they worry will we charge later?”

 

This may be the legacy in rural China of years of seeing government invest little—and often charge a lot—for basic services. Moreover, at the local level the workers who are meant to help mothers may well be family-planning officials responsible for controlling population, a role that hardly inspires trust.

 

At higher levels of government, too, officials need a lot of persuading that nutrition programmes are not a waste of public money... Part of the problem in getting local or provincial governments to spend money on childhood nutrition is that the payoffs are years in the making. And the returns might not go to the village or province, but to cities miles away, in the form of more skilled workers who move there. Central ministries are keen to invest... but they want to spend their cash on things that officials crave more than children do—like buildings in villages for each ministry.


For Mr Lu one kind of building does promise a big payoff—village early-education centres, or preschools. His charity has set them up in 677 villages, often using redundant elementary schools... all the children get a ying yang bao with their lunch... A study of nine- and ten-year olds, co-written by Mr Rozelle, found that taking a daily chewable vitamin with iron for six months not only cut anaemia levels. It also improved their maths.


http://www.economist.com/news/china/21604220-growth-has-helped-millions-avoid-malnutrition-it-still-threatens-hold-back-generation


Alexander J. Stein's insight:

Why produce supplements centrally and distribute them in the countryside (and do so over and again for years and years) when micronutrients can be bred into key staple crops that are grown in the very countryside by the very people who need those nutrients? >> Biofortification might well be a smart - and cost-effective - complementary intervention... 

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Findings may advance iron-rich, cadmium-free crops - Cornell Chronicle (2014)

Findings may advance iron-rich, cadmium-free crops - Cornell Chronicle (2014) | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

With news reports of toxic cadmium-tainted rice in China, a new study describes a protein that transports metals in Arabidopsis plants and holds promise for developing iron-rich but cadmium-free crops.

 

Iron and cadmium are both found in soil and are interchangeably taken up by iron transporters in plants. Pollution and heavy fertilizer use have increased soil cadmium levels in China, for example. In humans, cadmium can damage internal organs and cause cancer. At the same time, iron is an essential nutrient for plants and humans. Iron deficiency affects 30 percent of the world’s population, particularly in developing countries.

 

The interdisciplinary... study... describes an important role of a protein that transports nutrients – the transporter OPT3  – in maintaining balance of the essential micronutrient iron in Arabidopsis, small plants... that are used as models for studying plant biology... 

 

The new work finds that OPT3 transports iron and is involved in signaling iron concentrations – from leaves to roots – to regulate how much iron from the soil is needed by the plant. This function allows the plant to partition cadmium away from the edible portions of plants, including seeds (grain).


“One would hope that this transporter can be used to produce iron-fortified rice and other grain crops one day,” said Olena Vatamaniuk, associate professor of crop and soil sciences... “Our work suggests that manipulation of the expression of OPT3 can provide promising avenues for targeted biofortification strategies directed at increasing iron density, while omitting cadmium, in the edible portions of crops”...

 

http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/2014/05/findings-may-advance-iron-rich-cadmium-free-crops

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1105/tpc.114.123737

 

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Zn and Fe biofortification: The right chemical environment for human bioavailability - Clemens (2014) - Plant Sci

A considerable fraction of global disease burden and child mortality is attributed to Fe and Zn deficiencies. Biofortification, i.e. the development of plants with more bioavailable Zn and Fe, is widely seen as the most sustainable solution, provided suitable crops can be generated.


In a cereal-dominated diet availability of Fe and Zn for absorption by the human gut is generally low and influenced by a highly complex chemistry. This complexity has mostly been attributed to the inhibitory effect of Fe and Zn binding by phytate, the principal phosphorus storage compound in cereal and legume seeds. However, phytate is only part of the answer to the multifaceted bioavailability question, albeit an important one.


Recent analyses addressing elemental distribution and micronutrient speciation in seeds strongly suggest the existence of different Fe and Zn pools. Exploration of natural variation in maize showed partial separation of phytate levels and Fe bioavailability. Observations made with transgenic plants engineered for biofortification lend further support to this view.


From a series of studies the metal chelator nicotianamine is emerging as a key molecule. Importantly, nicotianamine levels have been found to not only increase the loading of Fe and Zn into grains. Bioavailability assays indicate a strong activity of nicotianamine also as an enhancer of intestinal Fe and Zn absorption.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.plantsci.2014.05.014

 

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Science and society: vaccines and public health - Fine (2014) - Public Health

Science and society: vaccines and public health - Fine (2014) - Public Health | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

Most public health research is devoted to the measurement of disease burdens and of the costs and effectiveness of control measures. The history of immunization provides many colourful examples of various ways in which such measurements are made, of how they have influenced policies, and of the importance of public perception of the magnitudes of the various burdens, benefits and risks. Improving the public's ability to evaluate evidence is itself an important aspect of public health... 

 

One might liken public health to a set of scales, weighing the magnitudes and costs of various ‘problems’ on one side, and balancing these against the effectiveness and costs of various ‘control interventions’ on the other. Everyone in public health is involved somewhere in this spectrum of relating problems to solutions, and insofar as we are doing it scientifically, this means quantifying them in various ways... it often means assumptions have to be made.

 

It is also important to consider the importance of public perceptions of the magnitude or cost of a problem, and of the intervention being developed, implemented or evaluated. This review looks at measuring, estimating and perceiving the magnitude of burdens and costs with reference to immunization, as illustrative of many of the issues which confront public health... 


The tensions between public perceptions and scientific evidence relating to vaccines, which began during the nineteenth-century arguments over smallpox vaccination, remain with us today. Public perceptions are influenced greatly by the media... 


Some will recall a television programme which was shown in this country in 1974 - a consultant at the Great Ormond Street Hospital showed a child with severe brain damage and attributed it to the child's recent pertussis vaccination. As a consequence of this programme, the coverage of pertussis vaccine fell rapidly from close to 90% down to 35%, with the inevitable result that pertussis case numbers increased immensely. It took 20 years for the coverage to return to the previous level before. That television programme killed a lot of children... 

 

But inappropriate and negative media coverage is not restricted to vaccines, and includes many aspects of health. It is an important and constant aspect of all aspects of public health. Misinformation itself is a major public health problem. Among the issues that come up, in this context, are the several motives behind bad tabloid science... 

 

The most obvious solution is surely education e teaching people how to evaluate things critically, how to evaluate evidence. A headline from just a few weeks ago mentions the shortage of science and maths teachers: and this too is a public health problem, in at least two ways. A shortage of science teachers means fewer students being well trained in maths and the sciences subjects required for them to become our successors. We need there to be a lot of good teachers and students for our subject to prosper in the future. And a shortage of teachers will have broad implications on the ability of the public to evaluate scientific data... 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.puhe.2014.06.021


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Biofortification offers hope for Africa’s malnourished - Africa Renewal (2014)

Biofortification offers hope for Africa’s malnourished - Africa Renewal (2014) | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

Many people who live in Lira district in northern Uganda consider Perpetua Okao... a life saver—and it is easy to know why. Her neighbour’s son was malnourished and often sickly. But after feeding him a diet of vitamin A-rich orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, the boy’s health improved dramatically in just a few days. Ms. Okao is among some 126,000 Ugandan farmers growing the orange-fleshed sweet potato, a new variety of potatoes enriched with vitamin A through biofortification. 

 

Biofortification is a process by which crops are bred in a way that increases their nutritional value. The idea behind biofortification is to breed nutritious plants, a process which experts consider much cheaper than adding micronutrients to already processed foods. It is a smart method to fight malnutrition... The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a UN food agency, considers malnutrition—caused by a lack of essential micronutrients such as iodine, iron, zinc and vitamin A in diets—a threat to millions of African lives. 

 

Biofortification can mitigate the effects of vitamin A deficiency (VAD) in people, reports HarvestPlus, a research centre committed to fighting global hunger... a serious health problem in more than 90 countries but more acutely in Africa and Asia. The deficiency causes preventable blindness in children and increases the risk of disease and death from severe infections. It also causes night blindness in women and increases the risk of maternal mortality... 

 

Uganda, which is severely affected, is now extensively producing the orange-fleshed sweet potato variety rich in beta-carotene... that converts to vitamin A in the human body... Thanks to the new sweet potato variety, vitamin A levels have increased among Ugandan children, making them visibly healthier than before... 

 

In Rwanda, about half a million farmers are growing new varieties of beans rich in iron. Farmers using these varieties are harvesting more yields per hectare and earning more income selling the surplus...

 

HarvestPlus and partners plan to develop more varieties of crops that will provide adequate vitamin A, zinc or iron to more than two billion people worldwide... they have scaled up their interventions in about 15 African countries, including in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, Uganda and Zambia...

 

The benefits of biofortification in crops are obvious. What remains is unlocking the potential for biofortification to engender better agriculture and food policies that promote nutrition. World Bank vice president Rachel Kyte concurs and highlights the bank’s commitment to boosting production of biofortified crops. Biofortification... provides a pathway to nutritional security for Africa’s food system.... scientific research on the possibilities of biofortification is no longer up for debate; it is an accepted reality. 

 

Concerned about malnutrition rates in the region, African policy makers and foreign partners are beginning to appreciate the value of the science behind biofortification, says Robin Buruchara, the regional director for Africa at the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, which works with 30 countries in East and Southern Africa. “We are flipping the conversation  from: ‘is it possible, can we do it, is it safe, do we get greater yield? to ‘how do we get this into the bowl and hands of children across the continent in Africa.’” ... 

 

http://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/august-2014/biofortification-offers-hope-africa%E2%80%99s-malnourished

 

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Is organic food better for you? - CNN (2014)

Is organic food better for you? - CNN (2014) | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

Recently, a study... said that organic fruits and vegetables are more nutritious. A press release declared it the "largest study" of its kind. Because of its size and breadth, some people believe that it trumps previous research which showed organic food did not appear to be any safer or more nutritious than conventionally grown food. Despite the hoopla, I think this study offers little new information and is not very convincing in making a claim that organic food is somehow "better for you." 

 

This new study, like many before it, was a systematic review and meta-analysis. That means it wasn't a new clinical trial or report of laboratory research. It was a specific kind of analysis that allows for a "study of studies." Basically, researchers set out to find all relevant research in a field, and then combine all of it together into one big analysis... 

 

But that doesn't mean that systematic reviews are infallible or immune from criticism. In fact, often the results of systematic reviews or meta-analyses can be hotly contested. I'm sure they will be for this study.

In 2009, for example, a group of scientists published amajor review of organic versus conventionally grown food... They found no significant difference between organic and conventionally grown food with respect to nutrient content. 

 

However, this study was considered by some to be methodologically imperfect. So in 2012, researchers from Stanford University worked on this topic and published a systematic review and meta-analysis. They looked at research through May of 2011, found 460 studies, and identified 237 that met their inclusion criteria... 


Again, the result was that there's a lack of evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventionally grown food. Which brings us to the most recent study. The authors of this paper acknowledged the previous reviews, but claimed that they weren't comprehensive enough. So they searched the literature from 1992 through 2011 and reviewed 448 studies. They deemed 343 appropriate for inclusion, which did make this a "larger" study. 


But remember that this study didn't include much more "newer" data than the Stanford study did. It simply had more data because it was more permissive in the type of studies that it deemed of high enough quality to be included.

 

The analysis showed that there were a significantly higher level of antioxidants in organic foods than in conventionally grown foods. It is on this basis that the researchers declared organic food more nutritious. They also found higher levels of pesticides on conventionally grown foods, which they said made them more unsafe... 

 

But antioxidants aren't "nutrients." They also aren't all the same. Each one works in a certain way in different parts of the body. More importantly, there is little evidence that more antioxidants will lead to better health... 


Second, the most recent study also found that organic crops are lower in protein. That's an actual nutrient, and it's being ignored in much of the media reports.

 

Third, while levels of pesticides may be higher in conventionally grown food, none of the studies have detected levels of chemicals that approach anything near what would be classified as an unsafe level.

 

Finally... If it were so obvious that organic foods were nutritionally superior, we would need no meta-analysis. Large studies would find clear benefits with respect to nutrients, and that would be that. We are having this argument because it is hard to find a benefit.

 

Moreover, when a systematic review finds a benefit that an old study didn't, by being more permissive of the research it includes, that should give us pause. It's entirely possible, of course, for previous work to be flawed and to have left out critical research, but that doesn't appear to be the case here.

 

It seems that the recent study included everything the old study did, and then added to it research that didn't make the cut the first time. That's potentially problematic... 

 

I would be remiss if I neglected to mention one more thing. The Stanford study was done with no external funding at all. The newer study, though, cost $429,000 and was funded by a charity that "supports organic farming research." That doesn't mean that a conflict of interest tainted the methods or results, but it should at least be acknowledged.

 

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/08/05/opinion/carroll-organic-food-nutrition/index.html

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

More on the study: http://www.scoop.it/t/ag-biotech-news/p/4024519173/

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Plant prebiotics and human health: Biotechnology to breed prebiotic-rich nutritious food crops - Dwivedi &al (2014) - eJ Biotechnol

Plant prebiotics and human health: Biotechnology to breed prebiotic-rich nutritious food crops - Dwivedi &al (2014) - eJ Biotechnol | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

Microbiota in the gut play essential roles in human health. Prebiotics are non-digestible complex carbohydrates that are fermented in the colon, yielding energy and short chain fatty acids, and selectively promote the growth of Bifidobacteria and Lactobacillae in the gastro-intestinal tract. Fructans and inulin are the best-characterized plant prebiotics.

 

Many vegetable, root and tuber crops as well as some fruit crops are the best-known sources of prebiotic carbohydrates, while the prebiotic-rich grain crops include barley, chickpea, lentil, lupin, and wheat. Some prebiotic-rich crop germplasm have been reported in barley, chickpea, lentil, wheat, yacon, and Jerusalem artichoke. A few major quantitative trait loci and gene-based markers associated with high fructan are known in wheat.

 

More targeted search in genebanks using reduced subsets (representing diversity in germplasm) is needed to identify accessions with prebiotic carbohydrates. Transgenic maize, potato and sugarcane with high fructan, with no adverse effects on plant development, have been bred, which suggests that it is feasible to introduce fructan biosynthesis pathways in crops to produce health-imparting prebiotics.

 

Developing prebiotic-rich and super nutritious crops will alleviate the widespread malnutrition and promote human health. A paradigm shift in breeding program is needed to achieve this goal and to ensure that newly-bred crop cultivars are nutritious, safe and health promoting.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ejbt.2014.07.004

 

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Alexander J. Stein's curator insight, August 5, 5:50 PM

"will alleviate the widespread malnutrition" -- I really wish authors of academic papers about yet-to-materialise developments would not pitch their papers with such unqualified claims, no matter how promising the approach. But let's hope they're right and more nutritious crops will soon alleviate malnutrition... 

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Mixed results for yellow cassava’s vitamin A trial - SciDevNet (2014)

Mixed results for yellow cassava’s vitamin A trial - SciDevNet (2014) | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

 

Yellow cassava increased beta-carotene concentration in children’s blood by five times compared with a control group who ate traditional white cassava. But the vitamin A concentrations improved on average only by 0.04 micromoles per litre — not enough to significantly reduce the number of children with vitamin A deficiency.

 
Despite the limited result, Talsma believes the effect is likely to increase when larger volumes are consumed for a longer period, and with better varieties that are currently being bred to double the current concentration of beta-carotene. She says biofortification is needed to complement other approaches such as supplementation and fortification of food, which are not reaching enough people.

 

In the district she worked in, existing supplementation reached only 31 per cent of children... And... seven out of eight bottles of different brands of cooking oil bought in Kenya that claimed to be fortified with vitamin A did not contain any more vitamin A than conventional cooking oil... 

 

Erick Boy, nutrition manager at the HarvestPlus programme... welcomes the results. “The efficacy of biofortified cassava has been proved for the first time... Demonstrating a biologically important effect under strictly controlled conditions, as in this trial, is a major step towards proof of concept for biofortification of cassava with beta-carotene as a potential public nutrition alternative.” ... 

 

http://www.scidev.net/global/nutrition/news/mixed-results-for-yellow-cassava-s-vitamin-a-trial.html

 

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Are Organic Vegetables More Nutritious After All? - NPR (2014)

Are Organic Vegetables More Nutritious After All? - NPR (2014) | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

There may never be an end to arguments over whether organic food is more nutritious. But a new study... finds that organic and conventional vegetables offer similar levels of many nutrients, including minerals, vitamin C and vitamin E. Conventional crops are higher in protein. And there are fewer pesticide residues on organic foods, as you'd expect. But the group found a significant difference in the levels of special compounds called antioxidants... 

 

These antioxidant compounds, which go by names like flavonoids and carotenoids, are getting a lot of attention lately. Their effects remain somewhat murky, but scientists say they can protect cells from the effects of aging, or from the sort of damage that can lead to cancer. Benbrook says this is a big reason why public health experts want us all to eat more fruits and vegetables: They deliver a good dose of antioxidants... 

 

Plants make these compounds to protect themselves when they run into challenges like insects or diseases... "Plants in an organic field are getting chewed on" ... 

 

This analysis, however, probably isn't the end of this debate. Jeffrey Blumberg, a professor of nutrition at Tufts University, says attempts to draw conclusions from collections of hundreds of different studies, each one comparing organic and conventional food, are beset by a host of methodological problems. For one thing, there's no single "organic" or "conventional" production system. 

 

Some organic crops get lots of organic fertilizer; some don't. Some are protected with lots of natural pesticides; some are not. Conventional practices vary widely, too. So it's difficult to know, in the end, what you really are comparing. And food that's compared in these studies may not be the same as the food you're buying in the store.

 

In any case, Blumberg says, the difference in nutritional quality between organic and non-organic fruits and vegetables really isn't that big — especially when you consider the gap between what Americans should eat, and what they really consume... What really will make a difference in people's health, he says, is just eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains. If you eat plenty of these foods — whether they're organic or not — you'll get plenty of antioxidants. 

 

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2014/07/11/330760923/are-organic-vegetables-more-nutritious-after-all

 

Alexander J. Stein's insight:

Apart from comparing apples with oranges, as pointed out by Blumberg, I wonder how the authors of the study designed it: Did they suspect that there was a crucial difference in antioxodants and then tested their hypothesis, or did they engage in data-mining and cast a net over the 340 studies to look what positive results they could get for organics? 

 

And disregarding the apple-oranges problem (as the authors did), why focus on antioxidants and ignore the higher protein content in conventional crops? In a country like the US this may be irrelevant, but in other parts of the world making sure people get enough protein (in diets that are often dominated by starchy staples) is important. And it is the more important if meat consumption should be discouraged (to use scarce resources more efficiently that are needed in its production). 

 

Finally, if antioxidants - such as carotenoids - are so important, shouldn't we ensure that those who cannot afford a balanced diet with lots of fruit and vegetables (but have to rely on a diet consisting mainly of cheap starchy staple crops, such as rice) should nevertheless get more of those valuable compounds? (Until income levels and nutrition knowledge have been boosted sufficiently for everybody to be in a position to eat healthily...) 

 

Once such solution could consist of encouraging the adoption of carotenoid-rich GM rice ("Golden Rice") and other crops (such as sweet potatoes) that have been developed over the last years to help address vitamin A deficiency, which is prevalent in populations that have to rely on monotonous diets. If those crops are grown "conventionally" they would not only have higher levels of carotenoids but (if the study is true) also of protein, which is also relevant for their target groups... 

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Alexander J. Stein's curator insight, July 12, 12:20 PM

Apart from comparing apples with oranges, as pointed out by Blumberg, I wonder how the authors of the study designed it: Did they suspect that there was a crucial difference in antioxodants and then tested their hypothesis, or did they engage in data-mining and cast a net over the 340 studies to look what positive results they could get for organics? 

 

And disregarding the apple-oranges problem (as the authors did), why focus on antioxidants and ignore the higher protein content in conventional crops? In a country like the US this may be irrelevant, but in other parts of the world making sure people get enough protein (in diets that are often dominated by starchy staples) is important. And it is the more important if meat consumption should be discouraged (to use scarce resources more efficiently that are needed in its production). 

 

Finally, if antioxidants - such as carotenoids - are so important, shouldn't we ensure that those who cannot afford a balanced diet with lots of fruit and vegetables (but have to rely on a diet consisting mainly of cheap starchy staple crops, such as rice) should nevertheless get more of those valuable compounds? (Until income levels and nutrition knowledge have been boosted sufficiently for everybody to be in a position to eat healthily...) 

 

Once such solution could consist of encouraging the adoption of carotenoid-rich GM rice ("Golden Rice") and other crops (such as sweet potatoes) that have been developed over the last years to help address vitamin A deficiency, which is prevalent in populations that have to rely on monotonous diets. If those crops are grown "conventionally" they would not only have higher levels of carotenoids but (if the study is true) also of protein, which is also relevant for their target groups... 

AckerbauHalle's curator insight, July 12, 12:51 PM

Der Vergleich Öko vs. Konventionell ist und bleibt methodisch schwierig. Ich halte persönlich das Argument eines höheren Gesundheitswertes für relativ schwach, obwohl es von Verbraucherinnen und Verbrauchern recht häufig als Kaufargument genannt wird. Übrigens war dies vor 10-15 Jahren noch deutlich stärker ausgeprägt. Inzwischen tauchen auch Argumente wir Umwelt- und Klimawirkung sowie Tierhaltung auf. 

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How to measure the economic impact of vector-borne diseases at country level - Basili & Belloc (2014) - J Econ Surveys

How to measure the economic impact of vector-borne diseases at country level - Basili & Belloc (2014) - J Econ Surveys | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

Vector-borne diseases (VBDs) are widespread in less developed countries and reemerging in developed ones. Available economic studies agree that VBDs have significant effects on countries' economic outcomes, and affirm that a systematic evaluation of such effects is crucial for the efficient allocation of resources to health-related priorities.


This paper provides a comparative assessment of available methodologies for measuring the economic impact of VBDs at national level. We review both macroeconometric and micro-based approaches, and examine advantages and disadvantages of current methods. We conclude by suggesting possible areas for future research... 


Micro-based methods follow a bottom-up approach, in which a VBD’s impact is first calculated at an individual or household level and then national figures are obtained by aggregating case level numbers. The most common micro-based methods are cost-of-illness (COI), disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs), healthy life-years (HeaLYs) and willingness to pay (WTP)... 


http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/joes.12075


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School feeding contributes to micronutrient adequacy of Ghanaian schoolchildren - Abizari &al (2014) - BJN

School feeding contributes to micronutrient adequacy of Ghanaian schoolchildren - Abizari &al (2014) - BJN | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

Without gains in nutritional outcomes, it is unlikely that school feeding programmes (SFP) could improve cognition and academic performance of schoolchildren despite the improvements in school enrolment. We compared the nutrient intake adequacy and Fe and nutritional status of SFP and non-SFP participants in a cross-sectional survey...

 

Energy and nutrient intakes and their adequacies were significantly higher among SFP participants... The MPA of micronutrients was significantly higher among SFP participants... and the multiple-micronutrient-fortified corn soya blend was a key contributor to micronutrient adequacy...

 

The present results indicate that school feeding is associated with higher intakes and adequacies of energy and nutrients, but not with the prevalence of Fe and nutritional status indicators. The results also indicate an important role for micronutrient-dense foods in the achievement of micronutrient adequacy within SFP.

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0007114514001585

 

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Deploying midwives in poorest nations could avert millions of maternal, newborn deaths - ScienceDaily (2014)

Deploying midwives in poorest nations could avert millions of maternal, newborn deaths - ScienceDaily (2014) | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

A modest increase in the number of skilled midwives in the world’s poorest nations could save the lives of a substantial number of women and their babies... Maternal mortality is a leading cause of death for women in many developing countries and public health efforts to avert it have only made headway in a few countries. Elsewhere, progress has either never started or has stalled in recent years.


Poor nations also have troubling rates of infant and fetal deaths. Midwives can play a crucial role in preventing the deaths of millions of women and children around the world who die during and around the time of pregnancy... In their analysis, researchers found that a 10 percent increase in midwife coverage every five years through 2025 could avert more than a quarter of maternal, fetal and infant deaths in the world’s 26 neediest countries... 


In a separate study of the 58 poorest countries... estimate that 7 million maternal, fetal and newborn deaths will occur in those nations between 2012 and 2015. If a country’s midwife access were to increase to cover 60 percent of the population by 2015, 34 percent of deaths could be prevented, saving the lives of nearly 2.3 million mothers and babies... Maternal mortality is the public health indicator with the greatest disparity between developed and developing countries... The 58 countries studied account for about 91 percent of maternal deaths worldwide. 


The researchers say boosting coverage of midwives who provide family planning as well as pregnancy care to 60 percent of women would cost roughly $2,200 per death averted as compared to $4,400 for a similar increase in obstetricians. Midwives are cheaper to train and can handle interventions needed during uncomplicated deliveries.. administer antibiotics for infections and medications to stimulate or strengthen labor, remove the placenta from a patient having a hemorrhage as well as handle many other complications that may occur in the mother or her baby... 

 

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140625114628.htm

 

Original articles: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60790-X ;

http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0098550

 

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Zinc: The Metal of Life - Kaur &al (2014) - Comprehens Rev Food Sci Safety

Zinc: The Metal of Life - Kaur &al (2014) - Comprehens Rev Food Sci Safety | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

The importance of zinc was 1st reported for Aspergillus niger. It took over 75 y to realize that zinc is also an essential trace element for rats, and an additional 30 y went by before it was recognized that this was also true for humans.

 

The adult body contains about 2 to 3 g of zinc. Zinc is found in organs, tissues, bones, fluids, and cells. It is essential for many physiological functions and plays a significant role in a number of enzyme actions in the living systems. Bioinformatics estimates report that 10% of the human proteome contains zinc-binding sites.

 

Based on its role in such a plethora of cellular components, zinc has diverse biological functions from enzymatic catalysis to playing a crucial role in cellular neuronal systems. Thus, based on the various published studies and reports, it is pertinent to state that zinc is one of the most important essential trace metals in human nutrition and lifestyle. Its deficiency may severely affect the homeostasis of a biological system...

 

http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1541-4337.12067

 

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Grain Legume Crops Sustainable, Nutritious - American Society of Agronomy (2014)

A new study examined the mineral micronutrient content of four types of grain legumes. Grain legumes are often overlooked as valuable sources of micronutrients, such as zinc and potassium.

 

Popular diets across the world typically focus on the right balance of essential components like protein, fat, and carbohydrates. These items are called macronutrients, and we consume them in relatively large quantities. However, micronutrients often receive less attention.

 

Micronutrients are chemicals, including vitamins and minerals, that our bodies require in very small quantities. Common mineral micronutrients include zinc, iron, manganese, magnesium, potassium, copper, and selenium.

 

A recent study... examined four types of grain legumes (pulses)—field peas, lentils, chickpeas, and common bean. Although these legumes have up to twice the micronutrients as cereals... they are not cultivated on the same scale as cereals in most countries... Diets that do not provide adequate amounts of micronutrients lead to a variety of diseases that affect most parts of the human body... “Iron deficiency is the most common, followed by zinc, carotenoids, and folate.” 

 

The study found that genetic characteristics (genotype) as well as environmental conditions—such as soil properties and local climate—can affect the micronutrient content of grain legumes... “In the case of selenium, we found that environmental conditions are more important than genotype... 


A 100-gram serving of any one of the four grain legume crops studied provided a substantial portion of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of iron, zinc, selenium, magnesium, manganese, copper, and nickel” ... Calcium was the only key micronutrient that these crops lacked. 


Interestingly, most of the crops studied were high in selenium... Selenium is an important but often overlooked micronutrient. Selenium deficiency can lead to diseases that weaken heart muscles and cause breakdown of cartilage. It can also give rise to hypothyroidism... 


“Increased production and consumption of grain legume crops should be encouraged by agriculturalists and dietitians around the world.” Since grain legume crops don’t require nitrogen-based fertilizers, which are derived from fossil fuels, they are very sustainable... “Grain legume crops are highly nutritious. In addition to the micronutrients described in this research, they also contain 20-25% protein, 45-50% slowly digestible starch, soluble and insoluble fiber, and are low in fat.”

 

https://www.agronomy.org/news-media/releases/2014/0609/632/

 

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.2135/cropsci2013.08.0568

 

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Beyond the First 1,000 Days: Mitigating the Global Malnutrition Crisis, with a Focus on Adolescence - Wageningen UR (2014)

Beyond the First 1,000 Days: Mitigating the Global Malnutrition Crisis, with a Focus on Adolescence - Wageningen UR (2014) | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

The period between conception and a child’s 2nd birthday (the first 1,000 days) is a particularly critical time for health interventions. However, there are other key, but neglected, tipping points along the lifecycle when it comes to health, and particularly nutrition. 

 

One critical but neglected period is adolescence, particularly in girls. This age, between 10 -19 years old, is a tipping point for health - the last stop before adulthood for behavioral, biological and social health, because of the potential impact on birth outcomes as well as the long-term health of women. There is little research around nutrition in the female adolescent population, particularly data that is not associated with pregnancy status. This is about to change.


On June 16- 17, the “Forum on International Maternal and Child Nutrition: Initiating Research through Multi-Stakeholder Collaborations,” convened by The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science at the New York Academy of Sciences and Wageningen UR... will mobilize the international community to adopt new research work. Key influencers—top nutrition researchers, heads of policy organizations, leading program implementation experts, and representatives from public and private institutions in the food and nutrition sector—will gather in a combination of closed-door and public sessions to form partnerships that enhance the understanding of nutrition in adolescence, as well as address three additional research focuses:Biological factors that affect micronutrient interventions,New tools to evaluate diet and nutritional status, andEvidence-based methods for scaling up implementation of interventions.

 

The research themes are among those that first surfaced in A Global Research Agenda for Nutrition Science, developed by The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science, in collaboration with the World Health Organization and hundreds of nutrition experts from the non-profit and academic sectors... In addition to the first 1000 days of life, adolescence provides a second chance for improvement”, says Frans Kok, PhD, Professor in Nutrition and Health... “Adolescence has been largely neglected, sadly, because people have not appreciated the impact that nutrition in adolescence can have on future development and growth,” says Zulfiqar Bhutta, PhD, Head, Division of Women and Child Health... 

 

http://wageningenur.nl/en/newsarticle/Beyond-the-First-1000-Days-Mitigating-the-Global-Malnutrition-Crisis-with-a-Focus-on-Adolescence.htm

 

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Malnutrition and the Microbiome - CBC (2014)

Malnutrition and the Microbiome - CBC (2014) | Global Nutrition | Scoop.it

Long term health issues after periods of malnutrition in children may be due to problems with their gut microbes.


One of the tragedies of malnutrition in children is that the problems don't end when the hunger stops. A new study has shown that the microbial communities in the gut of children who experience malnutrition seem to be compromised over the long term, and don't recover even after therapy and a return to a normal diet... 


The "microbiome" of these children seemed to be stuck in an immature state - not developing as it does under normal circumstances. This means that the children probably can't digest food properly, and leads to long term health issues, including stunted growth, a damaged immune system, and even neurological problems...

 

http://www.cbc.ca/quirks/2014/06/07/2014-06-07-6/

 

News article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature.2014.15355

Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature13421

 

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