Haemoglobin (Hb) levels rise more by eating millets than rice, according to a study by the National Institute of Nutrition. However, it also shows that there is no particular variety of millet that can be termed the best, as vitamin, protein, mineral and fat levels differ from one millet to another.

Speaking at the millets conclave on the ‘Nutritional and Health Benefits of Millets,’ JP Devraj, scientist at the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), said according to a study conducted by the scientific body, Hb levels increased 13.2 per cent in a millet-consuming group, against 2.7 per cent in a rice-consuming group.

Millets consumption by adolescents shows Hb levels increased from 10.8 g/dl (moderate anaemia) to 12.2 g/dl (normal), and millets can provide most of the daily physiological iron requirements for an average person, it said.

Study on diabetics

Devraj said NIN study shows a 12 per cent reduction in blood glucose levels while fasting and 15 per cent lower in a post-meal test when a diabetic person consumes millets. The HbA1c on average was reduced by 15 per cent, he added.

The NIN study shows consuming millets can reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, as it lowers total cholesterol, triacylglycerol (simplest lipids formed by fatty acid), body mass index (BMI) and obesity.

“Millets have reduced total cholesterol by 8 per cent, lowering cholesterol from high to normal levels,” said the scientist, adding it helped in reducing bad cholesterol by nearly 10 per cent. Further, consumption of these nutri cereals led to 6 per cent increase in good cholesterol (HDL), he said. The BMI reduction was also recorded at 7 per cent in people who were overweight and obese, showing the possibility of returning to normal.

Mineral bioavailability

Another important observation made by Devraj was about phytic acid content getting significantly (up to 62.9 per cent) reduced in people when millets are traditionally cooked, fermented overnight and then added with curd. 

Explaining further, he said: “This means the process may improve the bioavailability of minerals, especially iron and zinc.” He said even consumption of processed millets is good since it has high retention of water-soluble vitamins such as B2, B3 and B5.