An article in the February 2011 issue of Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety (CRFSFS) discussed how orange sweet potatoes could help prevent vitamin A deficiency in developing countries where this nutritional disease causes over 600,000 deaths per year--mostly of young children or pregnant women.
Most sweet potatoes in the United States are orange, but in developing countries sweet potatoes can also be white, cream, yellow and purple. According to the author, Betty J. Burri, of Western Human Nutrition Center at the United States Department of Agriculture, in these countries where vitamin A deficiency is common, it would help if the food industry could find ways to increase the production and consumption of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes.
Specifically, food companies could further this goal by developing improved varieties of prolific, hardy, disease and drought-resistant orange-fleshed sweet potatoes while developing and testing different food products made from sweet potatoes. For example, one of the sweet potato products that international programs are testing is sweet potato flour, which they can make into biscuits and buns.
There are many good sources of vitamin A and pro-vitamin A carotenoids in the American diet as well as access to orange sweet potatoes. However, in some parts of Africa the custom is to feed orange sweet potatoes to livestock and white sweet potatoes (which have very little pro-vitamin A carotenoids) to people. There are ongoing educational programs to guide these populations to eat more orange sweet potatoes and improve their vitamin A status. The food industry could help educate people about the types of sweet potatoes that are available, their nutrient content, and the best methods for storing, preparing, and cooking them.
Read the full article in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1541-4337.2010.00146.x/abstract
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