One of the important ways that plant scientists are working to improve the lives of malnourished people in developing countries is through the development of staple crops that improve human nutrition. The most successful of these “biofortified” crops in Africa is the orange sweet potato, which should serve as a model for future enhanced varieties.
According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition this month, eating orange sweet potato reduces the prevalence of vitamin A deficiency in children in Uganda and Mozambique. Vitamin A is critical for the development of good vision as it is an essential component of rhodopsin, a pigment in photoreceptor cells in the eye. Consequently in poor communities in Africa and south-east Asia, where diets poor in vitamin A are widespread, vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness. Healthy levels of vitamin A are also necessary for normal organ formation and maintenance. Orange-fleshed sweet potato varieties contain more than 50-fold more β-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A after ingestion, than the yellow or white varieties commonly eaten in African countries.
View the original article here: Orange sweet potato champions biofortified foods in Africa