A new video draws from a recent research project in India to explain the nutritional benefits of biofortified foods and how they can be integrated into India’s national food support programs to increase their impact and achieve better health for the nation. The video, “Healthy mothers and children for India: The role of biofortified foods,” will be helpful for decisionmakers and program managers seeking to improve food and nutrition security. 

Biofortification is a practical, cost-effective solution to improving intake of essential vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, and vitamin A through eating nutrient-enriched versions of familiar, readily available foods including wheat, sweet potato, and pearl millet. 

Proven health impacts of eating biofortified foods include: reversal of iron deficiency and improved cognition in adolescents who eat iron-biofortified pearl millet; reduced vitamin A deficiency and diarrhea in children who eat vitamin A-biofortified orange sweet potato; and improved ability to fight off common infections in women and children who eat zinc-biofortified wheat. 

The Multiple Biofortified Crops (MBFC) study was designed to measure the impact on nutrition and growth of combining multiple biofortified crops into daily meals. Introducing multiple biofortified crops to farming households provides dietary complementarity, enabling households to acquire multiple essential micronutrients (iron, zinc, and vitamin A) from one food basket. It also gives farmers a choice based on their staple food preferences in their area. 

The MBFC study began in 2019 and key activities concluded in 2021; data analysis is under way and results are expected by 2022. Delivered within feeding centers akin Anganwadi centers, the study showcased the practical feasibility — and likeability — of swapping biofortified foods for conventional foods in this setting. The study was conducted in collaboration between Cornell University, Arogyavaram Medical Centre (AMC), and Shreemati Nathibai Damodar Thackersey (SDNT) Women’s University, Kasturba Health Society Medical Research Centre. 

Watch the video here: 

We extend sincere thanks to all the participants who took part. The study was made possible with support from HarvestPlus, whose principal donors are: the UK Government; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the US Government’s Feed the Future initiative; Government of Canada; the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF); and donors to the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH). HarvestPlus is also supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. 

Contact [email protected] to learn more about biofortified crops in India. Visit insights.cornell.edu/mbfc to learn more about the biofortified crops research study described in this video.