Read full article By Sanjeeb Mukherjee@ Business Standard Photo Credit: WikimediaC ommns
The humble millet has long been considered a rich source of nutrition but a new cross-country study has found that it can boost growth in children and adolescents by 26-39 per cent, when they replace rice in standard meals.
The study, published in the journal ‘Nutrients’, was done by seven organisations in four countries and was led by S Anitha, a senior scientist-nutrition at the Hyderabad – International Crops Research Institute of the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).
It is a review and meta-analysis of eight prior published studies, ICRISAT said in a statement today.
Among the children fed with 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 children studied consumed millets over 3 months to 4.5 years.
Infants, pre-school and school-going children, as well as 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).
“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.
Study author Hemalatha, the director at India’s National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), said that implementing millet-based meals required menus to be designed for 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 said.
The studies were all undertaken in India and based on standard rice-based meals. The researchers also studied meals enhanced with more diversity, including vegetables, fruit, dairy and staples, which resulted in minimal additional growth from replacing rice with millets.