Science - January 26, 2006

Wageningen finds the best sorghum

Wageningen researchers have identified seven sorghum varieties that can help inhabitants of the African country Benin increase the iron content in their diet.

Anaemia resulting from insufficient iron consumption is common in Benin, especially among young children and pregnant women. This situation could be alleviated by making dibou, a paste that is commonly eaten in the area, exclusively out of the selected sorghum varieties. The researchers, who are affiliated not only with Wageningen University but also with the Université d’Abomey-Calavi, measure the iron concentrations and the organic phytate in the sorghum plants. The preferred varieties contain a relatively high level of iron and little phytate. Phytates inhibit the absorption of iron. The most interesting sorghum varieties turned out to also be the ones the farmers considered to be the most nutritious.
The researchers also tried to discover which sorghum variety is the best source of zink, another nutrient that is lacking in the Benin diet. However, they were unable to find an efficient source of this nutrient. The research is published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. / WK