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Dr S Anitha, senior scientist, nutrition, at ICRISAT, Hyderabad, led a study to find what happens when rice is replaced by millets in your child’s meal, and how much it can affect their growth.
Millets have been part of the Indian diet since ancient times. But over time, they have been replaced by several other refined grains like rice, wheat flour etc.
Recent times, however, have seen a sudden comeback, with the superfood being thrown under the limelight for several health benefits.
Several studies have been done to determine the nutritional value of these forgotten grains. A recent one has found that millets can boost growth in children and adolescents by 26 to 39 per cent when replacing rice in standard meals.
Led by Dr S Anitha, senior scientist, nutrition, at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) at Patancheru, Hyderabad, the study was a review and meta-analysis of eight such previously published studies conducted in India.
“All the eight studies were based on different age groups such as infants, pre-school and school-going children and adolescents, who were fed millet-based meals. Most were long term studies ranging from three months to four years, and observations were then compared with the children who were consuming a conventional rice-based diet,” she tells The Better India.
The study, which was published in the journal ‘Nutrients’, found that millets indeed boosted the growth in these age groups of children. It also notes that the grain could help in overcoming issues of undernutrition and malnutrition.
According to the study, children who were fed millet-based meals were observed to have attained a relative increase in height 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, when compared to the children who were fed rice-based diets.
“These studies provide evidence that millet-based diets can be effective in improving height and weight where regular rice-based diets are currently consumed,” note the researchers in the study.