According to a new study, eating millets on a regular basis can boost haemoglobin and serum ferritin levels, as well as reduce iron deficiency anaemia.
‘The study concluded that millets can meet the majority of an average person’s daily dietary iron requirements,’ said S Anitha, the study’s lead author and Senior Nutritionist at the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).
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Even though the amount of iron provided by millet varies depending on the variety and method of processing, research indicates that millets can play an important role in reducing and preventing high levels of iron deficiency anaemia.
The research study led by the ICRISAT reported that the ‘a meta-analysis of 22 human studies and eight laboratory tests on millets intake and anaemia, was carried out by seven organisations from four countries.’
Millets increased haemoglobin levels by 13.2 per cent, according to the researchers. Serum ferritin increased by an average of 54.7 per cent in four of the studies included in the review.
Ferritin is an iron-containing protein found in the blood that serves as a clinical indicator of iron deficiency.
The analysis included nearly 1,000 children, adolescents, and adults in the studies. For the study, they used finger millet, pearl millet, sorghum, and a mix of kodo, foxtail, and little millets.
Millets were consumed by study participants for a period ranging from 21 days to 4.5 years. The findings were published last week in Frontiers in Nutrition.
The problem of iron deficiency is becoming increasingly serious. ‘In 2019, an estimated 174 crore people were anaemic. That figure is rising,’ said Jacqueline Hughes, Director-General of ICRISAT.
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‘It has been established that anaemia has an impact on cognitive and physical development in children and reduces productivity in adults. Because the need for a solution is critical, incorporating millets into mainstream and government programmes is strongly advised,’ she said.
‘The findings of the meta-analysis, which were based on 19 efficacy studies conducted on anaemic individuals, clearly show that including millets in our daily diets, as a meal or beverage, reduces anaemia,’ Hemalatha, Director of the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), said.
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‘Contrary to popular belief, the research suggests that when millets are included as part of a balanced diet, the iron from millets is bio-available and enhances the haemoglobin status of the participants,’ she explained.