Millets boost growth of adolescent children: Study

Three-month-long study conducted in villages located around Bengaluru

December 19, 2019 01:15 am | Updated 01:15 am IST - HYDERABAD

The type of millet, its variety, how it is cooked and the foods it is combined with are some of the key elements that can make a difference in nutrition.

The type of millet, its variety, how it is cooked and the foods it is combined with are some of the key elements that can make a difference in nutrition.

Physical growth (height and weight) of adolescent children will be 50% more if they are given millet-based meals when compared to the growth recorded in children fed with fortified rice, according to a study conducted by International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad, and Akshaya Patra Foundation, Bengaluru.

The three-month-long study was conducted in villages located around Bengaluru, whose findings were released by Prof Ramesh Chand, member of NITI Aayog, and Dr Ashok Dalwai, Chair of Empowered Body, Doubling Farmers’ Income, government of India, in New Delhi on Wednesday.

The sample for the study includes 1,500 adolescents from two schools. They were served pearl millet (bajra), ragi (finger millet) or little millet (kutki), in the form of idli, khichdi, upma and bisibele bath. The study is titled ‘Acceptance and impact of millet based mid-day meal on nutritional status of adolescent school-going children in a peri-urban region of Karnataka State in India’.

Out of the 1,500 children, 136 were studied as the intervention group. Their growth was mapped before the study and three months after giving the millet meals. It was compared with growth of 107 children, from two other schools, who were served fortified rice. As per the results, the children who were consuming millet-based meals showed an average increase in height of 1.5% and average increase in weight of 5 % from the time of baseline (height and weight before study) measurement.

While on the other hand, rice-consuming control group showed an average increase in height of 1% and average increase in weight of 3% from baseline. When the percentage of growth of the two groups is considered, millet eating group recorded 50% higher growth relative to growth observed in rice eating group.

A nutritionist at ICRISAT, S Anitha said that the type of millet, its variety, how it is cooked and the foods it is combined with are some of the key elements that can make a difference in nutrition.

The study’s authors have called for policies that follow the lessons learnt on how to include millets into meals and to create a level playing field for the pricing and availability of millets.

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