Illinois researchers tackle malnutrition through improved iron fortification quality control in low-resource settings

Malnutrition continues to undermine public health agendas all around the globe. A rapid transition in the continuum of diet adequacy (that is,nutrientsand energy) from poor to adequate and then to poor again is observed in most countries, where on one end protein/energy and micronutrient deficiencies are the hallmark of undernutrition, and micronutrient deficiencies and chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular illnessesand metabolic syndrome abound in the other. Although the strategies to bring adequate nutrition to individuals within this continuum are present, these often conflict with our limited understanding of the individual’s needs; the socio, cultural and economic determinants of food consumption and the delivery vehicles and matrix effects on nutrient/bioactive absorption. Scientists at the Illinois Agricultural Experiment Station sought to design, evaluate and implement strategies and technologies that will assess the nutritional status of foods and maximize nutrition delivery to individuals and populations at different stages in the nutrient/energy adequacy continuum. Technologies are low-cost, stealth or culturally accepted, simple to use, adaptable to current deficiencies, of limited energy input and environmentally friendly. The target populations to use or benefit from these technologies is low-income populations, food fortification facilities, food processing facilities, Extension educators and staff at laboratories and clinics. Micronutrient fortification of staple foods has resulted in improved nutritional status of populations worldwide. Lack of laboratory techniques and quality control tools, however, have limited the implementation of and compliance with fortification policies, especially in low-resource settings. The Illinois method determines iron in fortified corn samples. This iron sensor provides an accurate, reliable and sensitive alternative to measure iron in fortified corn in low-resource settings. Ateam member validated the assay in Mexico. Peers from the Universidad Autonoma de Queretarohelpedobtain data to validate the iron sensor in its ability to accurately and reliably measure three types of iron used in the fortification of corn flour. In addition, the team optimized the sensor to measure other types of iron as well as zinc. They further expanded the linearity of determinations for iron.


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