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New Corn May Combat Iron Deficiency Anemia / March 16, 2000 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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ARS geneticist Victor Raboy examines new corn low in phytic acid

Read: Details in the March 2000 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

New Corn May Combat Iron Deficiency Anemia

By Marcia Wood
March 16, 2000

Tomorrow's tortillas, if made with a unique corn from ARS research, may help reduce iron-deficiency anemia. That could be a boon in developing countries where corn-based foods are a part of nearly every meal, and in developed nations where iron deficiency is also common.

Developed by Agricultural Research Service geneticist A. Victor Raboy at Aberdeen, Idaho, the novel corn has about 66 percent less phytic acid, or phytate, than most common varieties. Phytic acid is thought to reduce the body's ability to use certain nutrients, like iron.

Now, University of Colorado researchers are leading an investigation of the effects of the corn on zinc absorption in a new study with Guatemalan villagers. Earlier, scientists from the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama and from the University of California's Berkeley and Davis campuses showed, with 14 adult male volunteers, that iron absorption was about 50 percent greater if the men ate tortillas made from flour of the low-phytic-acid corn than if they ate tortillas prepared with normal corn flour.

Patented in 1997 and licensed to three companies, the unusual corn may also boost the health of the environment because it reduces pollution that could otherwise occur when phosphorus in the manure of corn-fed animals makes its way into waterways. Raboy's low-phytic-acid corn is correspondingly high in inorganic phosphorus--the form that one-stomached animals like pigs, chickens, or farm-raised fish can readily absorb and use.

Details are in ARS' Agricultural Research magazine.

ARS is USDA's chief research arm.

Scientific contact: A. Victor Raboy, through March 31 in Israel via e-mail; thereafter: ARS Small Grains and Potato Germplasm Research Unit, Aberdeen, Idaho, phone (208) 397-4162, ext. 151, fax (208) 397-4165.

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