Scientists Have Developed Rice With High Folate Stability

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(21-09-2015) Researchers from Ghent University succeeded in stabilizing folates in biofortified rice, which can offer a solution to serious health problems caused by folate deficiency in developing countries.

Essential nutrient

The human body is unable to make vitamin B9, better known as folate. Adults need approximately 400 microgram of folates per day to remain healthy, a number which is increased to 600 microgram for pregnant women. Folates are abundant in green leafy vegetables (folium is Latin for leaf), such as spinach and legumes (e.g. beans). Most staple crops, such as rice and other cereals, contain very low amounts of this vitamin.

Inadequate folate intake can have severe effects on human health. In addition to certain forms of anemia, folate deficiency in pregnant women can result in an impaired development of the neural tube (the precursor of the spinal cord) of the embryo. These developmental problems often result in spina bifida: the so-called “cleft spine”. Folate deficiency is also associated with Alzheimer disease, cardio-vascular diseases and the development of a range of cancers. Due to the marginal levels of folate in rice, consumed by about half the world population as sole energy source, folate deficiency is highly prevalent in developing countries. Several studies show that in certain regions of e.g. China and India the occurrence of neural tube defects is at least 10-fold higher than in Western countries.

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