Millets can boost growth in children, adolescents: Study

K. V. Kurmanath | | Updated on: Jan 12, 2022
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Researchers have found that these ‘smart foods’ can boost growth in children and adolescents by 26 – 39 per cent when they replace rice in a standard meal

The demand for millets has seen an uptick of late as people, mostly elderly, have began to consume more of these ‘smart foods’. Now a study finds that millets can do miracles for children and adolescents.

Researchers at the ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics) and a few other organisations have found that these ‘smart foods’ can boost growth in children and adolescents by 26 – 39 per cent when they replace rice in a standard meal. The children studied consumed millets over 3 months to four-and-a-half years. The results suggest that millets can significantly contribute to overcoming malnutrition.

Infants, pre-school and school-going children and adolescents were part of the review. Five of the studies in the review used finger millet, one used sorghum and two used a mixture of millets (finger, pearl, foxtail, little and kodo millets).

The study, published in the journal Nutrients , is a review and meta-analysis of eight prior published studies. It was undertaken by seven organisations in four countries and was led by S Anitha, Senior Scientist-Nutrition at ICRISAT. “These results are attributable to the naturally high nutrient content of millets that exhibit high amounts of growth promoting nutrients, especially total protein, sulphur containing amino acids and calcium in the case of finger millets,” Anitha said.

Growth parameters

“Among the children who were fed millet-based meals, a relative increase of 28.2 per cent in mean height, 26 per cent in weight, 39 per cent in the mid upper arm circumference and 37 per cent in chest circumference was noted when compared to children on regular rice-based diets,” the study pointed out.

“These findings provide evidence that nutrition intervention programmes can be developed and adapted to increase diversity in meals using millets in order to improve the nutritional content,” Jacqueline Hughes, Director General of ICRISAT, said.

“We need to have menus to suit different age groups utilising culturally sensitive and tasty recipes. This should also be complemented with awareness and marketing campaigns to generate an understanding and interest in millets” Hemalatha, Director at India’s National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), said.

Published on January 12, 2022

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