Project

Biofortified Zinc Flour to Eliminate Deficiency (BiZiFED)

Goal: Examining the effectiveness and acceptability of the use of bio-fortified crops in alleviating micronutrient deficiencies in Pakistan.

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Heather Ohly
added a research item
Zinc-biofortified flour may be a cost-effective approach to improve zinc status of populations in low-resource settings. The success of biofortification programmes is subject to acceptability and uptake by consumers. This study explored community leaders’ and community members’ (n = 72) experiences and attitudes towards the flour provided during a cluster randomised controlled trial of zinc biofortified wheat in rural Pakistan (BiZiFED2). Focus group discussions (n = 12) were conducted and thematic analysis applied using an inductive, semantic, contextualist approach. Five themes were identified: (1) Contribution to food security; (2) Better sensory and baking properties than local flour; (3) Perceived health benefits; (4) Willingness to pay for the flour; and (5) Importance of trusted promoters/suppliers. Although the participants were blind to whether they had received control or biofortified flour, referred to collectively as “study flour”, the results indicated that the study flour performed well in terms of its taste and bread making qualities, with no adverse reports from participants in either arm of the BIZIFED2 RCT. Participants suggested that they would buy the biofortified wheat if this was available at a fair price due to perceived health benefits, reporting positive sensory characteristics and cooking attributes when compared to the flour available in the local markets. Overall, there was a positive reception of the programme and flour among the participants, and members of the community hoped for its continuation and expansion.
Heather Ohly
added a research item
A new variety of zinc biofortified wheat (Zincol-2016) was released in Pakistan in 2016. The primary aim of this study was to examine the effects of consuming Zincol-2016 wheat flour on biochemical and functional markers of zinc status in a population with widespread zinc deficiency. An individually-randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled cross over design was used. Fifty households were recruited to participate in the study, with each household included at least one woman of reproductive age (16–49 years) who was neither pregnant nor breast feeding or currently taking nutritional supplements. All households were provided with control flour for an initial 2-week baseline period, followed by the intervention period where households were randomly allocated in a 1:1 ratio to receive biofortified flour (group A; n = 25) and control flour (group B; n = 25) for 8-weeks, then switched to the alternate flour for 8-weeks. The trial has been registered with the ISRCTN ( https://www.isrctn.com ), ID ISRCTN83678069. The primary outcome measure was plasma zinc concentration, and the secondary outcome measures were plasma selenium and copper concentrations, plasma copper:zinc ratio and fatty acid desaturase and elongase activity indices. Nutrient intake was assessed using 24-h dietary recall interviews. Mineral concentrations in plasma were measured using inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry and free fatty acids and sphingolipids by mass spectrometry. Linear Mixed Model regression and General Linear Model with repeated measures were used to analyse the outcomes. Based on an average flour consumption of 224 g/day, Zincol-2016 flour provided an additional daily zinc intake of between 3.0 and 6.0 mg for white and whole grain flour, respectively. No serious adverse events were reported. This resulted in significant, increase in plasma zinc concentration after 4 weeks [mean difference 41.5 μg/L, 95% CI (6.9–76.1), p = 0.02]. This was not present after 8 weeks ( p = 0.6). There were no consistent significant effects of the intervention on fatty acid desaturase and elongase activity indices. Regular consumption of Zincol-2016 flour increased the daily zinc intake of women of reproductive age by 30–60%, however this was not associated with a sustained improvement in indices of zinc status.
Heather Ohly
added a research item
Background: Biofortification of staple food crops may be a cost-effective and sustainable approach to reducing micronutrient deficiencies in resource-poor settings with low dietary diversity. However, its success depends on uptake by the local population. This paper presents formative research conducted in a remote, rural community in North West Pakistan, prior to commencing a randomised controlled trial to test the effectiveness of consuming zinc-biofortified wheat flour for alleviating zinc deficiency. It explored local community members' knowledge, understanding and attitudes towards biofortification and views on members of their community taking part in the trial. Methods: Four focus group discussions were conducted with male and female community members (separately for cultural reasons) and four in-depth interviews were conducted with Jirga members-respected male elders. Participation was limited to households that were ineligible for the trial so that we could explore the perspectives of community members who were not influenced by the incentives of the trial. Focus group participants were selected at community events for transparency. Data collection took place at the local school and homes of Jirga members. Thematic analysis was undertaken, using a combination of deductive and inductive approaches to identify key themes. Results: A total of 47 men and women participated in this study. Participants reported clear motivation to access and consume more nutritious flour, believing this would bring health benefits, particularly to women and children. Trusted members of the local community, including Jirga members and female health workers, should be involved in providing information on biofortified flour (and the trial) to increase levels of awareness and acceptance. Without their involvement, there is a risk that biofortified flour would be mistrusted. The cost of flour is the main factor affecting purchasing decisions, and biofortified flour will need to be cost-competitive to achieve widespread uptake in marginalised, rural communities. Conclusion: This formative study generated rich, qualitative data from a range of community stakeholders to improve the understanding of important barriers and facilitators to the widespread acceptability and adoption of biofortified wheat. Implementation research such as this will inform future decision-making in relation to scaling up biofortified wheat in Pakistan.
Heather Ohly
added 2 research items
Consuming a diverse diet is essential to ensure an adequate intake of micronutrients. The aim of this study was to assess the nutritional status and dietary diversity of women of reproductive age (WRA) living in a marginalized community in rural Pakistan. Forty-seven WRA (35 ± 7 years old) who were not pregnant or lactating at enrollment, were recruited to participate in the study. Twenty-four-hour dietary recall interviews were conducted by the study nutritionist, and the data collected were used to create a minimum dietary diversity for women score (MDD-W) on five occasions during the monsoon and winter seasons (October to February). Nutritional status was assessed using anthropometry and biochemical markers of micronutrient status. Height and weight were used to determine body mass index (BMI), and mid-upper-arm circumference was measured. Plasma zinc, iron, and selenium concentrations were measured using inductively coupled mass spectrometry, and iron status was assessed using serum ferritin and blood hemoglobin concentrations. The mean (±SD) food group diversity score was 4 ± 1 with between 26% and 41% of participants achieving an MDD-W of 5. BMI was 27.2 ± 5.5 kg/m2 with 28% obese, 34% overweight, and 6% underweight. The prevalence of zinc deficiency, based on plasma zinc concentration, was 29.8%; 17% of the participants had low plasma selenium levels; 8.5% were iron deficient; and 2% were suffering from iron deficiency anemia. The findings indicate that the women living in this community consume a diet that has a low diversity, consistent with a diet low in micronutrients, and that zinc deficiency is prevalent. Public health interventions aimed at increasing the dietary diversity of WRA are needed to improve the micronutrient intake, particularly of zinc, in this population.
Introduction: Micronutrient deficiencies, commonly referred to as ‘hidden hunger’, affect more than two billion people worldwide, with zinc and iron-deficiency frequently reported. The aim of this study is to examine the impact of consuming zinc biofortified flour (Zincol-2016) on biochemical and functional measures of status in adolescent girls and children living in a low-resource setting in Pakistan. Methods and analysis: We are conducting a pragmatic, cluster-randomised, double-blind, controlled trial. A total of 482 households have been recruited from two catchment areas approximately 30–40 km distance from Peshawar. Household inclusion criteria are the presence of both an adolescent girl, aged 10–16 years, and a child aged 1–5 years. The study duration is 12 months, divided into two 6-month phases. During phase 1, all households will be provided with locally procured flour from standard varieties of wheat. During phase 2, clusters will be paired, and randomised to either the control or intervention arm of the study. The intervention arm will be provided with zinc biofortified wheat flour, with a target zinc concentration of 40 mg/kg. The control arm will be provided with locally procured wheat flour from standard varieties with an expected zinc concentration of 20 mg/kg. The primary outcome measure is plasma zinc concentration. Secondary outcomes include anthropometric measurements, biomarkers of iron and zinc status, and the presence and duration of respiratory tract infections and diarrhoea. Ethics and dissemination: Ethical approval was granted from the University of Central Lancashire STEMH Ethics Committee (reference number: STEMH 1014) and Khyber Medical University Ethics Committee (DIR/KMU-EB/BZ/000683). The final study methods will be published in peer-reviewed journals, alongside the study outcomes. In addition, findings will be disseminated to the scientific community via conference presentations and abstracts and communicated to the study participants through the village elders at an appropriate community forum.
Munir Hussain Zia
added a research item
Effect of agronomically biofortified zinc flour on zinc and selenium status in resource poor settings; a randomised control trial - Volume 76 Issue OCE4 - M.J. Khan, U. Ullah, Usama, N. Lowe, M. Broadley, M.Z. Afridi, M. Zia, H.J. McArdle, S. Young doi:10.1017/S0029665117003457
Heather Ohly
added a research item
Zinc deficiency is a global public health problem, affecting ~17% of the world's population, with the greatest burden in low‐ and middle‐income countries. An increasing body of evidence suggests that biofortification may be a cost‐effective and sustainable approach to reducing zinc and other micronutrient deficiencies. Biofortification enhances the nutritional quality of food crops through conventional plant breeding techniques and agronomic practices. This paper presents ongoing research on biofortification in Pakistan, where over 40% of women are zinc deficient. The Biofortified Zinc Flour to Eliminate Deficiency (BiZiFED) project aims to investigate the impact of biofortification as a strategy to alleviate zinc deficiency in Pakistan. The project is supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Global Challenges Research Fund from May 2017 to April 2019. This paper outlines the four objectives and work packages within the BiZiFED project: (1) a double‐blind, randomised controlled trial to examine the effect of consuming flour made from a high zinc variety of biofortified wheat (Zincol‐2016/NR‐421) on dietary zinc intake and status; (2) a cost‐effectiveness study to assess the health and economic impact of agronomic biofortification of wheat; (3) a mixed methods study to explore the cultural acceptability and sustainability of biofortification in Pakistan; (4) capacity building and development of long‐term research partnerships in Pakistan. The findings will contribute to the evidence base for the potential impact of biofortification to alleviate zinc deficiency among the poorest communities.
Heather Ohly
added a research item
Introduction: Dietary zinc (Zn) deficiency is a global problem, particularly in low-income and middle-income countries where access to rich, animal-source foods of Zn is limited due to poverty. In Pakistan, Zn deficiency affects over 40% of the adult female population, resulting in suboptimal immune status and increased likelihood of complications during pregnancy. Methods and analysis: We are conducting a double-blind, randomised controlled feeding study with cross-over design in a low-resource setting in Pakistan. Households were provided with flour milled from genetically and agronomically biofortified grain (Zincol-2016/NR-421) or control grain (Galaxy-2013). Fifty households were recruited. Each household included a woman aged 16-49 years who is neither pregnant nor breastfeeding, and not currently consuming nutritional supplements. These women were the primary study participants. All households were provided with control flour for an initial 2-week baseline period, followed by an 8-week intervention period where 25 households receive biofortified flour (group A) and 25 households receive control flour (group B). After this 8-week period, groups A and B crossed over, receiving control and biofortified flour respectively for 8 weeks. Tissue (blood, hair and nails) have been collected from the women at five time points: baseline, middle and end of period 1, and middle and end of period 2. Ethics and dissemination: Ethical approval was granted from the lead university (reference no. STEMH 697 FR) and the collaborating institution in Pakistan. The final study methods (including any modifications) will be published in peer-reviewed journals, alongside the study outcomes on completion of the data analysis. In addition, findings will be disseminated to the scientific community via conference presentations and abstracts and communicated to the study participants through the village elders at an appropriate community forum. Registration details: The trial has been registered with the ISRCTN registry, study ID ISRCTN83678069.
Heather Ohly
added a project goal
Examining the effectiveness and acceptability of the use of bio-fortified crops in alleviating micronutrient deficiencies in Pakistan.