Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Fight against malnutrition in the world population through innovation and a less fragmented approach

06.07.2007
Malnutrition is still the most serious threat to the health of the world population and the most important cause of infant mortality in the world. About one third of the population in developing countries is faced with micronutrient deficiencies, such as vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Investing in solutions for these can produce many results, but to date the approach has been too fragmented and not sufficiently innovative. This is what Professor Michael Zimmerman propounds in his acceptance of the position of professor occupying an endowed chair in Micronutrients and health in developing countries at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. Unilever sponsors his chair and is partner in his research.

In his inaugural lecture, "Global control of micronutrient deficiencies; divided they stand, united they fall", he argues for an integrated approach to the problem of hunger. This must be effected, in his opinion, by viewing deficiencies of the various micronutrients in a coherent way. There must also be attunement of the various strategies which have been pursued separately up to now. And finally there must be better collaboration between the different organisations – government, business community and science. A combined approach is more effective, he argues.

Innovation

Professor Zimmerman thinks that traditional strategies are not enough, however. In addition, much effort must be invested in innovation. He points here to plant breeding or genetic modification – bio-fortification – to increase vitamin and mineral content and their absorption. Modifying the genes in rice, for example, can increase iron content and at the same time enhance iron absorption in the human body. Zimmerman also sees a great deal of potential in the application of nanotechnology in order to increase the solubility of micronutrients in water and thus lead to their greater absorption by the body. The human body is generally a poor absorber of ferric sulphate but good absorption of this substance can be achieved if the particle size of the substance can be reduced greatly, as Zimmermann has already demonstrated in an animal study.

Zimmerman expects that uniting traditional strategies with innovative new technologies can represent a breakthrough in the control of vitamin and mineral deficiency in foodstuffs.

Fragmentation

Despite the great efforts made, programmes of governments and international organisations directed at separate solutions for such things as deficiencies in vitamin A, iron, iodine or zinc have had relatively little effect: Vitamin A deficiency is still a factor in the death of a million children a year, and iodine deficiency in mothers during pregnancy impairs the mental development of 18 million children a year.

According to Zimmerman, research shows that many of these deficiencies occur concurrently. Iodised salt, for instance, has little effect in areas where there are vitamin A and iron deficiencies. In his view, the best way of preventing various micronutrient deficiencies is a coherent and multi-facetted approach.

The same applies to the strategies for achieving this goal. These will not be particularly effective, in the opinion of Zimmerman, if separate efforts are made at adding vitamins and minerals to food (fortification), or through tablets or drinks in addition to food (supplementation), of through varied nutrition (dietary diversification). Although dietary diversification is the best long-term solution, fortification and supplementation are essential in the shorter term.

Michael Bruce Zimmermann (1958), who possesses both Swiss and American nationalities, studied food sciences at Berkeley, California and obtained his doctorate in medicine cum laude at the Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee (US). He has been working as lecturer and researcher at the Institute of Food Science and Nutrition at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) since 1997.

The chair of Professor Zimmerman and his assistant professor are sponsored by Unilever. This company is also funding three PhD students and six master scholarships, all for students from developing countries. A scientific collaboration between Unilever and Professor Zimmermann's group will also be established. This financial support and scientific collaboration are a result of the ambition to contribute to improved nutrition in developing countries, in particular by reducing micronutrient deficiencies through foods.

Jac Niessen | alfa
Further information:
http://www.wur.nl

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Usher syndrome: Gene therapy restores hearing and balance
25.09.2017 | Institut Pasteur

nachricht MRI contrast agent locates and distinguishes aggressive from slow-growing breast cancer
25.09.2017 | Case Western Reserve University

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: LaserTAB: More efficient and precise contacts thanks to human-robot collaboration

At the productronica trade fair in Munich this November, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT will be presenting Laser-Based Tape-Automated Bonding, LaserTAB for short. The experts from Aachen will be demonstrating how new battery cells and power electronics can be micro-welded more efficiently and precisely than ever before thanks to new optics and robot support.

Fraunhofer ILT from Aachen relies on a clever combination of robotics and a laser scanner with new optics as well as process monitoring, which it has developed...

Im Focus: The pyrenoid is a carbon-fixing liquid droplet

Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.

A warming planet

Im Focus: Highly precise wiring in the Cerebral Cortex

Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.

The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...

Im Focus: Tiny lasers from a gallery of whispers

New technique promises tunable laser devices

Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...

Im Focus: Ultrafast snapshots of relaxing electrons in solids

Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!

When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

“Lasers in Composites Symposium” in Aachen – from Science to Application

19.09.2017 | Event News

I-ESA 2018 – Call for Papers

12.09.2017 | Event News

EMBO at Basel Life, a new conference on current and emerging life science research

06.09.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Fraunhofer ISE Pushes World Record for Multicrystalline Silicon Solar Cells to 22.3 Percent

25.09.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Usher syndrome: Gene therapy restores hearing and balance

25.09.2017 | Health and Medicine

An international team of physicists a coherent amplification effect in laser excited dielectrics

25.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>