UCLan Nutritional Science Professor Nicola Lowe has been granted £30,000 from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) to investigate whether a newly developed strain of bio fortified wheat could increase dietary zinc intake in Pakistan. According to the World Health Organisation, dietary zinc deficiency is a global problem affecting 17% of the world’s population, with the greatest burden in developing countries. The most recent national survey in Pakistan indicates that over 40% of women are zinc deficient, compared with less than 15% in Europe and North America. The consequences of zinc deficiency are profound and far reaching, ranging from stunted growth and development in children, increased susceptibility to infections in children and adults and complications during pregnancy and childbirth. This has a negative economic impact on the family, the community and the region.
The study is a collaboration with plant physiologist, Professor Martin Broadley at Nottingham University, as well as research partners in Pakistan including the Abaseen Foundation and Khyber Medical University and Fauji Fertilizer Company. The research will focus on families in a North West Pakistan rural community who will spend eight weeks eating the new strain of wheat grain growth in zinc rich fertilizer compared to standard grain to assess whether it increases zinc content in the body. The team will monitor the participants by testing hair samples and blood plasma as well as exploring new techniques to evaluate zinc levels. They will also look at hoe culturally acceptable bio fortification is within rural communities and key stakeholders including farmers.