Navigation Links
Fertilizers could help tackle nutritional deficiency in African country, researchers say
Date:3/12/2013

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 samples of what they ate and drank over a 24 hour period, and blood and urine samples were also taken. The samples collected were sent back to the UK to be analysed for their levels of selenium.

The findings showed that the natural acidity levels of the soil in the two regions in other words how acid or alkaline the soil was had a huge impact on the selenium levels of the inhabitants, as had been predicted from a previous study. Selenium intake was eight times higher in villages with more alkaline rich soils in Mikalango than those from villages in Zombwe where the soil was acidic.

Similarly the women of the Zombwe region had less than half the levels of selenium in their blood and about one-third of the levels of selenium in their urine than that of their Mikalango counterparts.

Due to a current lack of information, the researchers are not yet able to estimate the impact of selenium deficiency on the whole of the population of Malawi or the wider region using frameworks devised by bodies such as the World Health Organization. However, similar frameworks are already in place for deficiencies of other minerals such as zinc which the authors estimate carries an annual economic burden of 70 million in Malawi alone.

The low levels of selenium in most soils in Malawi indicate that policies to tackle selenium deficiency in Southern Africa should still be considered, say the researchers.

Dr Broadley added: "It is of course feasible for people to diversity their diets to increase the consumption of other selenium-rich foods such as meat, poultry, fish and eggs but this is particularly challenging for people who are living in developing countries on an extremely low income. The Malawi diet is dominated by a single staple crop, in this case, maize, which is often used to make a thick porridge type dish called nsima which is often eaten with a vegetable-based relish."

The researchers recommend that further research is needed into the benefits and costs of introducing a programme to enrich nitrogen-based soil fertilisers used relatively widely in maize cultivation in Malawi with selenium as a way of increasing the levels of the mineral in maize. A precedent for this has already been set in other countries such as Finland, where supplemented fertilisers have successfully increased the selenium concentrations in Finnish foods and diets since the mid 1980s.


'/>"/>
Contact: Emma Thorne
emma.thorne@nottingham.ac.uk
44-011-595-15793
University of Nottingham
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Heart-powered pacemaker could one day eliminate battery-replacement surgery
2. New test could help track down and prosecute terrorists
3. New antibiotic could make food safer and cows healthier
4. BPA could affect reproductive capabilities, cause infection of the uterus
5. Key to immune system disease could lie inside the cheek
6. New analysis of premature infants heartbeats, breathing could be cues for leaving NICU
7. Tiny electrical sensors could signal faster MRSA diagnosis
8. Corals could survive a more acidic ocean
9. Early warning system for seizures could cut false alarms
10. Rapid method of assembling new gene-editing tool could revolutionize genetic research
11. 800-year-old farmers could teach us how to protect the Amazon
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:5/20/2016)... 2016  VoiceIt is excited to announce its ... By working together, VoiceIt and VoicePass will ... VoicePass take slightly different approaches to voice biometrics, ... and usability. ... partnership. "This marketing and technology partnership ...
(Date:5/12/2016)... WearablesResearch.com , a brand of Troubadour ... from the Q1 wave of its quarterly wearables survey. ... receptivity to a program where they would receive discounts ... company. "We were surprised to see that ... LaColla , CEO of Troubadour Research, "primarily because there ...
(Date:5/3/2016)... Lithuania , May 3, 2016  Neurotechnology, ... released the MegaMatcher Automated Biometric Identification System ... of large-scale multi-biometric projects. MegaMatcher ABIS can process ... accuracy using any combination of fingerprint, face or ... MegaMatcher SDK and MegaMatcher Accelerator ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... In a new case report published ... how a patient who developed lymphedema after being treated for breast cancer benefitted from ... the paradigm for dealing with this debilitating, frequent side effect of cancer treatment. ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... Andrew D Zelenetz ... Published recently in Oncology ... touchONCOLOGY, Andrew D Zelenetz , discusses the ... is placing an increasing burden on healthcare systems ... With the patents on many biologics expiring, interest ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... Pleasant Prairie, WI (PRWEB) , ... June 23, ... ... sciences consultancy focused on quality, regulatory and technical consulting, provides a free ... webinar is presented on July 13, 2016 at 12pm CT at no charge. ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... , June 23, 2016 ... market research report to its pharmaceuticals section with ... product details and much more. Complete ... across 151 pages, profiling 15 companies and supported ... at http://www.reportsnreports.com/reports/601420-global-cell-culture-media-industry-2016-market-research-report.html . The ...
Breaking Biology Technology: