Cassava and Reduced Nutrient Intake

August 26/St. Louis/Science Letter -- Data detailed in "Children Consuming Cassava as a Staple Food are at Risk for Inadequate Zinc, Iron, and Vitamin A Intake" have been presented. According to recent research from the U.S., "Cassava contains little zinc, iron and beta-carotene, yet it is the primary staple crop of over 250 million Africans. This study used a 24-hour dietary recall to test the hypothesis that among healthy children aged 2-5 years in Nigeria and Kenya, cassava's contribution to the childrens' daily diets is inversely related to intakes of zinc, iron and vitamin A."

"Dietary and demographic data and anthropometric measurements were collected from 449 Kenyan and 793 Nigerian children. Among Kenyan children, 89% derived at least 25% of their dietary energy from cassava, while among the Nigerian children, 31% derived at least 25% of energy from cassava. Spearman's correlation coefficient between the fraction of dietary energy obtained from cassava and vitamin A intake was r=-0.15, p<0.0001, zinc intake was r=-0.11, p<0.0001 and iron intake was r=-0.36, p<0.0001. In Kenya, 59% of children consumed adequate vitamin A, 22% iron, and 31% zinc. In Nigeria, 17% of children had adequate intake of vitamin A, 57% iron, and 41% zinc," wrote A. Gegios and colleagues, Washington University, Department of Pediatrics.

The researchers concluded, "Consumption of cassava is a risk factor for inadequate vitamin A, zinc and/or iron intake."

Gegios and colleagues published their study in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition ("Children Consuming Cassava as a Staple Food are at Risk for Inadequate Zinc, Iron, and Vitamin A Intake" Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 2010;65(1):64-70).

For additional information, contact A. Gegios, St. Louis Children's Hospital, Dept. of Pediatrics, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO 63110.

From the September 7, 2010, Prepared Foods E-dition