As any nutritionist will tell you, the sweet potato is naturally packed with calcium, potassium, and vitamins A and C, so how is it possible to improve on this nutritious food? Add more of what it already has…and help reduce malnutrition around the world.
The 2016 World Food Prize was awarded to four scientists who developed a Vitamin A enriched sweet potato. The prize winners— Doctors Maria Andrare, Robert Mwanga, Jan Low & Howard Bouis— have all been previously recognized for their work in various fields of food enrichment known as biofortification.
The World Food Prize is “the foremost international award recognizing the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world,” according to their website.
It all began with Dr. Bouis who was part of a research team that discovered providing malnourished children with a Vitamin A capsule just twice a year cut the death rate among them by 25 percent, a 2012 U.S. National Public Radio (NPR) story reported. It was then that the idea struck him: instead of feeding capsules to the community, he could feed them a more nutritious version of the food they were already eating.
Vitamin A is involved in developing strong vision and a fully functional immune system. In most developed nations, Vitamin A is abundant; it’s in dairy products, tuna, chicken, spinach and more. In countries where there may political unrest, lack of animal food products and lack of means for fruits and leafy vegetables to grow such as harsh sun and little to no water, Vitamin A is tough to come by.
Not for long.
“These four extraordinary World Food Prize Laureates have proven that science matters, and that when matched with dedication it can change people’s lives,” said United States Agency for International Development administrator Gayle Smith.
The biofortified sweet potato has the potential to save millions of lives. Read more from the BBC here.
Photo courtesy of: Christina Xu, Flickr.