Golden Rice, vitamin A deficiency, and World Sight Day
October 9 is World Sight Day. It is a perfect occasion to highlight the importance of having a healthy vision and immune system.
Vitamin A is a crucial vitamin for the eyes, but not only that. Vitamin A is an essential nutrient needed for the visual system, growth, development, and a healthy immune system. Everybody needs vitamin A to grow and thrive, particularly mothers and young children.
Vitamin A deficiency results from a lack of vitamin A in the diet. Vitamin A deficiency can also be caused by infections that reduce appetite or the body’s ability to absorb vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency can damage the immune system and decrease the body’s ability to resist or fight infections, therefore increasing the risk of mortality from common diseases, especially among young children. Vitamin A deficiency may also result in impaired vision, including night blindness (the inability to see at night or in dim light) and may result in permanent, partial, or total blindness if left untreated.
Many people in the developing world do not get enough vitamin A or beta carotene from the food they eat, contributing to the serious public health problem of vitamin A deficiency. Vitamin A deficiency is most common among young children and pregnant and nursing women as they have increased nutrient requirements.
Proven approaches to prevent vitamin A deficiency include:
- promotion of optimal breastfeeding practices;
- promotion of proper complementary feeding practices;
- nutrition education and consumption of a diversified diet that includes nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables and foods from animal sources;
- vitamin A capsule supplementation;
- food fortification; and
- other public health measures, including control of infectious diseases.
These approaches to vitamin A deficiency have had real successes, however, vitamin A deficiency remains a public health problem in many parts of the world. Target populations are sometimes missed with these interventions, especially in hard to reach areas.
If proven to be efficacious and improve vitamin A status, Golden Rice has the potential to be an intervention that could be used to complement these proven vitamin A deficiency control approaches.
In this interview with Oryza.com, Dr. Antonio Alfonso, project leader of the Golden Rice project at the Philippine Rice Research Institute, answers some of the questions related to the Golden Rice project. READ MORE.