Regular intake of millets helps tackle anaemia: Study

K V Kurmanath Hyderabad | Updated on October 19, 2021

The research study, led by ICRISAT, was undertaken by seven organisations across four countries

A new study finds that regular consumption of millets can improve hemoglobin and serum ferritin levels and reduce iron deficiency anaemia. “The study concluded that millets can provide all or most of the daily dietary iron requirements of an average person,” S Anitha, the study’s lead author and Senior Nutritionist at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

Although the amount of iron provided depends on the millet variety and its form of processing, the research shows that millets can play a good role in preventing and reducing high levels of iron deficiency anaemia.

Iron deficiency marker

The research, a meta-analysis of 22 studies on humans and eight laboratory studies on millets consumption and anaemia, was undertaken by seven organisations across four countries. The research study was led by the ICRISAT.

The researchers found that millets increased hemoglobin levels by as much as 13.2 per cent. Four studies in the review also showed serum ferritin increasing by an average of 54.7 per cent.

Ferritin is an iron containing protein in the blood and is a clinical marker for iron deficiency.

The studies in the analysis involved nearly 1,000 children, adolescents and adults. They covered finger millet, pearl millet, sorghum and a mixture of kodo, foxtail and little millets for the study.

The participants in the studies were found to have consumed millets for anywhere between 21 days and 4.5 years. The findings were published in Frontiers in Nutrition last week.

The problem of iron deficiency is growing significantly. “As many as 174 crore people were anaemic in 2019. That number is rising,” Dr Jacqueline Hughes, Director-General of ICRISAT, said.

“It has been proven that anaemia affects cognitive and physical development in children and reduces productivity in adults. The need for a solution is critical, and therefore bringing millets into mainstream and government programs is highly recommended,” she said.

“The results of the meta-analysis based on 19 efficacy studies conducted on anaemic individuals clearly indicate that including millets in our daily diets, as a meal or beverage, decreases anaemia,” Hemalatha, Director of National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), said.

“Contrary to the belief that micro-nutrients in millets are not bio-available, the findings have shown that when millets are included as part of a balanced diet, the iron from millets is bio-available and improves the hemoglobin status of the participants,” she said.

Published on October 19, 2021

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