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Aussie scientists develop new bananas to overcome vitamin A deficiency in developing countries

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Staff Writer | July 7, 2017
Banana vitamin A
New food   The significant health issue

Australian scientists have created genetically modified bananas with high levels of provitamin A, as a strategy to overcome vitamin A deficiency in developing countries, researcher Professor James Dales from the Queensland University of Technology told Xinhua.

Beginning in 2005, the project has begun to plant the new bananas in Uganda and are looking to expand across East Africa.

"The worst outcome of vitamin A deficiency is death and the second worst outcome is permanent blindness," Dales explained, "It also leads to impaired immune systems and impaired brain development."

"Even conservative estimates say that around 700,000 kids die every year of vitamin A deficiency."

The reason why vitamin A deficiency is such a large problem in developing countries, is because subsistence farmers depend on a limited number of staple foods like rice, potatoes and maize, or cooking-bananas.

"These are very, very starchy foods, high in energy, however they are low in micronutrients like provitamin A and iron," Dales said.

Despite the significant health issue, Dales is adamant the problem can be fixed simply by increasing the intake of either vitamin A or provitamin A.

"We are working on provitamin A, which is alpha beta-keratin, the plant source which is converted into vitamin A in the human body," Dales said.


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