Hyderabad: ‘FeFA Girls’, a new initiative to address malnutrition among adolescents was launched today. Iron deficiency anaemia is a major cause of morbidity and mortality. Intensive approach to health and wellbeing is important for development of adolescent girls. Through this project, ICMR-National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) will work in partnership with the Government of Telangana to address these important issues.
FeFA Girls includes two components: i) to establish diet-based approaches for improvement in haemoglobin and iron status in adolescent girls, and ii) to generate scientific evidence on nutritional benefits of groundnut and pearl millet (ICRISAT mandate crops) on human health.
Together termed FeFA Girls “Iron For Adolescents” (Fe: symbol of Iron; FA: For Adolescent), the project reaches out to adolescent girls aged 16-19 from selected social welfare hostels in Telangana to address iron deficiency and poor dietary fibre intake. A key aspect of iron-deficiency anaemia prevention and control is promotion of diets containing adequate amounts of bioavailable iron.
“Our approach is to use practical food-based solutions using crops rich in iron and dietary fibres that have been shown to improve the gut microbiome composition. We aim to achieve overall improvement of iron biomarkers naturally in adolescent girls with mild to moderate iron deficiency,” said Dr Peter Carberry, Director General, ICRISAT, speaking at the launch event.
Highlighting the importance of these efforts, Dr R Hemalatha, Director of NIN, stated, “This collaboration between ICRISAT and ICMR-NIN will bring together expertise and experience that complements each other”.
Adolescent girls suffering from mild to moderate anaemia will receive high-dietary fibre-containing natural nutritional supplements in the form of a peanut-pearl millet bar every day for three months in government residential hostels, Telangana*. The daily consumption of 100 grams will be in two doses. To mark the launch, a project flyer was released highlighting key components and expected outcomes and peanut-pearl millet bars were displayed and distributed among the participants and media representatives.
Another project to understand the ‘Effect of National iron-folic acid (IFA) Supplementation Programme on Gut Modulation and Iron Status among Adolescents’, will assess the effect of daily iron-folic acid supplementation (for a period of three months) on the gut microbiota composition and function of adolescent girls.
“Next-generation high-throughput sequencing techniques will be utilized for assessment of differences in the microbiota state between baseline and end-point of the study. This will help us to understand the effect of high nutritional value peanut-pearl millet bars, developed at ICRISAT together with partners to benefit the society at large. Improved data collected through digital platforms too will help better engage adolescents,” said Dr Rajeev K Varshney, Research Program Director for Genetic Gains, ICRISAT and leader of the project from ICRISAT.