Report of ‘Micronutrients and Human Health’ (14 November)

appelMicronutrients are only needed in small concentrations in the human body, but are vital to keep processes going. Micronutrient deficiency in humans is a large problem in both developed and developing countries. Alida Melse and Paul Hulshof of the division of human nutrition presented different approaches on November 14th  to tackle this problem. 

The presentation of Alida focused on the biofortification of cassava. This crop is a major part of the diet of the poorest inhabitants of East Africa. The traditional white cassava provides besides calories only little nutritional value. The project INSTAPA examined the effects of fortified yellow cassava: the yellow color indicates a high content of carotene , which can be converted to vitamin A. This vitamin can reduce the risk of premature death in young children by 25%. The results of the project were very positive and the social acceptance of yellow cassava was high. Biofortification is a means to reach the poorest inhabitants of a country because fortified foods are too expensive and supplementation keeps residents dependent.

Paul started his talk with the current internet hype about the reduced nutritional value of foods and compared this with scientific publications on the topic, showing that different studies came to different outcomes. An ideal climate for cherry-picking. Then the talk took a turn to the influence of fertilization on the nutrient content of foods. An often-heard claim that organic food is healthier, but from a nutrient perspective there seems to be little difference with conventional farming methods. This subject is remains understudied, as nutrient density depends on a multitude of factors which are difficult to keep stable in an experiment set-up.

If you are interested in the presentation of Alida Melse and Paul Hulshof, please send us an e-mail with your registration number.

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