Enriching crops by adding a naturally-occurring soil mineral to fertilisers could potentially help to reduce disease and premature death in the African country of Malawi, researchers have said.
An international study led by academics at The University of Nottingham has shown that dietary deficiency of the mineral selenium which plays a vital role in keeping the immune system healthy and fighting illness is likely to be endemic among the Malawi population.
They found that most Malawi soils cannot supply enough selenium for adequate human nutrition and, in a paper published today in the journal Scientific Reports, they call for further investigation into the benefits and costs of using selenium-enriched fertilisers and other strategies to boost levels within the country's food.
Leading the study was Dr Martin Broadley, of the University's School of Biosciences, he said: "Selenium is a naturally occurring mineral of fundamental importance to human health, with critical roles in immunity. People with low dietary selenium intakes are at increased risk of suffering from a variety of diseases. Most soils in Malawi have extremely low levels of the selenium available to plant roots and so selenium is not transferred into crops in sufficient amounts for optimal human health. We urgently need to assess strategies to address this problem in Malawi and the wider Southern African region in the context of wider mineral malnutrition (for example, iron, zinc and iodine deficiencies), often referred to as the 'hidden hunger'."
The study examined the diet and the resulting nutritional status of a total of 120 otherwise healthy women aged between 18 and 50 years old living in villages in Zombwe in the north of Malawi and Mikalango in the south.
Research assistants from Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Ministry of Health in Malawi, spent time in the homes of the volunteers collecting duplicate sam
|Contact: Emma Thorne|
University of Nottingham