A recent study has shown that regular consumption of millets can improve hemoglobin and serum ferritin levels to reduce iron deficiency anaemia, which is rising globally.
The research, a meta-analysis of 22 studies on humans and eight laboratory studies on millets consumption and anemia, was undertaken by seven organizations across four countries and was led by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).
The researchers found that millets increased hemoglobin levels by as much as 13.2%. Four studies in the review also showed serum ferritin increasing by an average of 54.7%. Ferritin is an iron containing protein in the blood and is a clinical marker for iron deficiency.
The studies in the analysis involved nearly 1,000 children, adolescents and adults, and six different millet types – finger millet, pearl millet, sorghum and a mixture of kodo, foxtail and little millets.
Dr Hemalatha, Director, National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) said, “Contrary to the belief that micronutrients in millets are not bioavailable, the findings have shown that when millets are included as part of a balanced diet, the iron from millets is bioavailable and improves the hemoglobin status of the participants. Including millets in our daily diet, as suggested in “My Plate for the Day”, has the potential to decrease the burden of anemia in India.”
The research also showed that processing can significantly increase the amount of iron bioavailable. For example, millet snacks made by expansion (extrusion) increased bioavailable iron 5.4 times, while fermentation, popping and malting more than tripled the iron bioavailable. Germination (sprouting) and decortication (dehulling) more than doubled the bioavailable iron.