Sunday, October 2, 2022

“Hidden hunger”: a Turkish expert recommends solving an age-old problem of humanity

There are two serious problems with the nutrition of people in the world: chronic hunger, which includes all those who suffer from a lack of adequate food, totaling 800 million. also exists Hidden hunger, suffered by those who have access to food but are low in the content of essential elements (mainly minerals and vitamins essential for maintaining human health). Their number is 2 billion. Professor Ismail Kakmak of Istanbul’s Sabanci University discussed this topic and its relation to soil and plant nutrition at a meeting. Fertilize Civil Association.

The expert highlighted that Hidden hunger is a very old problem of humanity, When zinc, selenium, iron and iodine deficiencies were found in people suffering from health problems, such as malfunctioning of the immune system and brain, and disorders of physical development.

The first commitment to tackle the problem was made in 1943 in Virginia, United States. Other announcements from institutions followed, but the situation continued without significant changes, affecting 800 million people – including women and children, which Kakamak described. “A global disgrace”.

For Researcher, Argentina "May be one of the first countries in the world to offer wheat biofortified with zinc and other micronutrients and contribute to global health.
For the researcher, Argentina “could be one of the first countries in the world to offer wheat biofortified with zinc and other micronutrients and contribute to global health”.

Time passed and more recently, in 2015, the United Nations proposed the Sustainable Development Goals, which they included the mitigation of hidden hunger and the pursuit of good health for all. But the numbers continued unabated. Then, Even today there are challenges with hidden hunger and health and well-being for all the inhabitants of the planet.

Kakmak proposed “Start with a new way of thinking and moving forward” To overcome the problem of hidden hunger. He explained that this is not only a health problem, but it also has economic implications. “The impact of micronutrient deficiency is equivalent to an average of about 5% of GDP in developing countries”, Quantified. It happens that many people have low intakes of micronutrients in the diet because grain-based foods contribute 75% of total calories in rural areas of many developing countries. In Europe, this ratio can drop to an average of 50%, but the problem is that these grains contain too few micronutrients necessary for human health.

Micronutrient deficiencies in cereals may be due to low levels in the parent soil, making them poorly available to plants. In other cases they may be the result of human-induced land degradation.

It is known that nutrients are extracted from the soil when the crop is grown. For example, corn takes up about 500 grams per hectare of elemental zinc with each crop. These negative “human impacts” have been measured in macronutrients – for example nitrogen and phosphorus – but have not been considered to significantly affect micronutrients, which affect grain yield and composition, and therefore human health.

“Producers usually focus on yield without paying too much attention to quality of production,” criticized the speaker. “Generally, the higher the yield, the lower the quality of cereals and processed foods. In other words, the agricultural system does not take human nutrition into account.” questioned. Expressed in another way: soil depletion is observed in all latitudes and the fact that with high crop yields, the concentration of zinc, selenium and other micronutrients declines, as well as the content of proteins .

As stated in the beginning, there have been many educational and training programs in the last 60 years that tried to solve the problem of hidden hunger, but they were not successful. According to Kakmak, the reason for this behavior is that “No agricultural or food policy includes solutions based on micronutrient fertilization.” The fertilization programs undertaken were oriented towards macronutrients to increase farmers’ yields or incomes.

“No attention has been paid to the nutritional value of cereals to reduce hidden hunger. Without micronutrients available in the soil, how will policies to address hidden hunger succeed? “You have to ensure adequate levels of micronutrients in the soil; The source of the problem lies in the soil, which has lesser amounts of these elements”, stressed the expert.

According to Kakmak, alternative solutions to soil fertility are not very effective. There may be a way to provide nutritional supplements to those with a hidden appetite. That is, feed the affected people with pills daily. For example, 15 mg of zinc per day. This option is not very practical or sustainable, especially in areas far from cities.

Another possibility would be to artificially fortify foods with micronutrients: for example, adding zinc to bread. This option shares the same limitations as the previous one.

“The real solution to hidden hunger is to have the essential nutrients in the plants before they are harvested in the field,” Advised the lecturer.

He then listed out various successful strategies to reduce hidden hunger in different countries. For example, soils in Finland that had significant deficiencies of selenium – an essential element for reducing cancer risk – transferred to cereals and processed foods. Faced with this, it was decided to add 15 grams of selenium per kg of fertilizer to macronutrients—nitrogen, phosphorus-containing fertilizers. From this composition, wheat went from less than 15 mg of selenium per kg to 150 mg/kg. By comparison, the content in human blood also increased.

The recommended dosage for infusion with selenium is low. It can be planted before planting and reinforced with foliar applications in very poor lots.

Another case he elaborated on was one that occurred in Anatolia, Turkey, where several trials show significant differences in wheat yield between control and treatment with zinc because soils in the region lack this microelement. . In view of this, a fertilizer project was designed and improvements in yield and grain composition and human health were observed, which had enormous economic and social impact. Today, 600,000 tons of NPK fertilizers also contain zinc.

On the other hand, the project HarvestZinc It began in 2008 in 15 countries—including Germany, Mexico and Brazil—and experiences showed that fertilization strategies doubled the concentration of zinc in grains. Sowing and foliar applications were done with this micronutrient, but also with selenium, iron and iodine.

On the other hand, there were doubts among researchers as to whether the higher amounts of micronutrients contained in grains would be retained after fertilization during their processing to manufacture food. Various measurements show that the essential nutrient content of cereals remains in the final products – such as breads, cookies – for human consumption.

“Zinc can be brought from farms to the table through crop nutrition strategy”, Graphing the speaker based on measurements taken in 15 countries. “Micronutrients are bioavailable in food and absorbed in the human gut,” he said.

In the final part of his presentation, Kakamak left the following thoughts for attendees:

“Argentina is a very important world producer of wheat and with its exports to countries in South America, Africa and Asia can contribute greatly to alleviating hidden hunger. May be one of the first countries in the world to offer wheat Biofortified with zinc and other micronutrients and contribute to global health”, he challenged.

This process “could have profitable commercial consequences if there was a premium product – for example, 45 ppm zinc versus 25 of standard wheat, which would differentiate it from wheat from Canada or Australia”, he differentiated.

“Fertilization with microelements is a simple and low-cost exercise, that creates an opportunity and a responsibility; Governments should offer incentives with specific policies so that producers can decide to implement these beneficial practices for humanity”, Kakmak concluded.

Nation World News Desk
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