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The potential of rice to offer solutions for malnutrition and chronic diseases

Sharifa Sultana Dipti112, Christine Bergman122, Siti Dewi Indrasari123, Theja Herath124, Robert Hall1256, Hueihong Lee127, Fatemeh Habibi128, Priscila Zaczuk Bassinello129, Eduardo Graterol1012, Julie P Ferraz11 and Melissa Fitzgerald1121314*

Author Affiliations

1 Grain Quality and Nutrition Centre, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), DAPO 7777, Metro Manila, Philippines

2 Department of Food and Beverage, University of Nevada-Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV, 89154, USA

3 Indonesian Center for Rice Research (ICRR) BB Padi, Jl. Raya 9, Sukamandi, Subang, 41256, Jawa Barat, Indonesia

4 Industrial Technology Institute, Colombo 7, Bauddhaloka Mawatha, 363, Sri Lanka

5 Plant Research International, PO Box 98, 6700AB, Wageningen, The Netherlands

6 Centre for BioSystems Genomics, P.O. Box 98, 6700AB, Wageningen, The Netherlands

7 Faculty of Agriculture and Food Sciences, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Nyabau Road, 97000, Bintulu Sarawak, Malaysia

8 Rice Research Institute of Iran (RRII), Km5 Tehran Rd, 41996-13475, Rasht,I.R, Iran

9 Embrapa Arroz e Feijão, Rodovia GO-462, Km 12, Zona Rural C.P. 179, Santo Antônio de Goiás, GO, 75375-000, Brazil

10 Fundación para la Investigación Agrícola DANAC, Apartado Postal 182, San Felipe, Estado Yaracuy, Venezuela

11 Institute of Science, Diabetes Foundation Marikina, Philippines, Healthserve Hospital, and Calamba Doctors Hospital, Laguna, Philippines

12 International Network for Quality Rice, Metro Manila, Philippines

13 Grain Quality and Nutrition Centre, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), DAPO 7777, Metro Manila, Philippines

14 Current address: School of Agriculture and Food Science, University of Queensland, St Lucia, 4072, Australia

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Rice 2012, 5:16  doi:10.1186/1939-8433-5-16

Published: 2 July 2012


It is internationally accepted that malnutrition and chronic diseases in developing countries are key limitations to achieving the Millennium Development Goals. In many developing countries, rice is the primary source of nutrition. In those countries, the major forms of malnutrition are Fe-induced anaemia, Zn deficiency and Vitamin A deficiency, whereas the major chronic disease challenges are Type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers. There is a growing corpus of evidence regarding both limitations and opportunities as to how rice could be an effective vehicle by which to tackle key nutrition and health related problems in countries with limited resources. Rice breeding programs are able to focus on developing new varieties carrying enhanced amounts of either Fe, Zn or beta-carotene because of large public investment, and the intuitive link between providing a mineral/vitamin to cure a deficiency in that mineral/vitamin. By contrast, there has been little investment in progressing the development of particular varieties for potential impact on chronic diseases. In this review article we focus on the broad battery of evidence linking rice-related nutritional limitations to their impact on a variety of human health issues. We discuss how rice might offer sometimes even simple solutions to rectifying key problems through targeted biofortification strategies and finally, we draw attention to how recent technological (−omics) developments may facilitate untold new opportunities for more rapidly generating improved rice varieties specifically designed to meet the current and future nutritional needs of a rapidly expanding global population.