A study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN) in August 2016 found that biofortified beta carotene rice improves vitamin A intake and reduces the prevalence of vitamin A inadequacy among women and young children.
The research was conducted to understand the potential impact of consumption of biofortified-carotene rice (i.e. Golden Rice) on the prevalence of inadequate vitamin A intake in populations where rice is a staple crop.
Using the national dietary intake data sets from the Philippines and Indonesia, and the nutrition survey in Bangladesh, researchers predicted (through a simulated analysis) the change in prevalence of inadequate vitamin A intake when biofortified-carotene rice is substituted for white rice in their typical diet, applying a range of 4–20 parts per million (ppm)-carotene content and substitution levels of 10–70 percent.
The population set of the study included women of reproductive age (14–50 years old) and non-breastfed children aged 1–3 years old. Samples were randomly selected from the data set. The study took into account several assumptions such as the bioconversion level of beta carotene and the adoption level of biofortified rice.
Results of the simulation analysis found that even low substitution levels and modest increases in the -carotene of rice produced a meaningful decrease in the prevalence of inadequate intake of vitamin A. The study also concluded that increasing the substitution of biofortified-carotene rice had a greater impact than increasing its -carotene content (by greater than 12 ppm).
Addressing Vitamin A deficiency
The study suggests that the Golden Rice has an enormous potential to address vitamin A deficiency (VAD) in rice consuming populations. At present, Golden Rice research is still ongoing in the Philippines, Bangladesh, and Indonesia.
In the Philippines, vitamin A deficiency remains a persistent public health problem. Based on the National Nutrition Survey of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI), vitamin A deficiency among preschool children (six months to 5 years old) in the country has increased from 15.2 percent in 2008 to 20.4 percent in 2013. VAD among 6-11 month old infants is of severe public health significance and VAD among 1-5 year old children is of moderate public health significance. A number of pregnant women and nursing mothers are also vitamin A deficient.
Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of preventable blindness in children and increases the risk of disease and death from severe infections. In pregnant women, VAD causes night blindness and may increase the risk of maternal mortality. An estimated 250,000 to 500,000 vitamin-A deficient children become blind every year and half of them die within 12 months of losing their sight, the World Health Organization reported.
Golden Rice can be released as a complementary solution to address vitamin A deficiency once it is found safe, proven to improve vitamin A status of vitamin A-deficient individuals, and approved by government regulators.
The Department of Agriculture-Philippine Rice Research Institute is at the forefront of developing Golden Rice in the Philippines in close coordination with the International Rice Research Institute. It is being conducted following the regulatory and safety standards in the country. Once available, the project would ensure that Golden Rice could reach those vitamin A-deficient individuals, especially those hard to reach by existing interventions.