Iron deficiency is endemic in much of the world, and food system-based approaches to eradication may be viable with new plant breeding approaches to increase the micronutrient content in staple crops. It is thought that conventional plant breeding approaches provide varieties of rice that have 400-500% higher iron contents than varieties commonly consumed in much of Asia. The efficacy of consuming high-iron rice was tested during a 9-mo feeding trial with a double-blind dietary intervention in 192 religious sisters living in 10 convents around metro Manila, the Philippines. Subjects were randomly assigned to consume either high-iron rice (3.21 mg/kg Fe) or a local variety of control rice (0.57 mg/kg Fe), and daily food consumption was monitored. The high-iron rice contributed 1.79 mg Fe/d to the diet in contrast to 0.37 mg Fe/d from the control rice. The 17% difference in total dietary iron consumption compared with controls (10.16 ± 1.06 vs. 8.44 ± 1.82 mg/d) resulted in a modest increase in serum ferritin (P = 0.10) and total body iron (P = 0.06) and no increase in hemoglobin (P = 0.59). However, the response was greater in nonanemic subjects for ferritin (P = 0.02) and body iron (P = 0.05), representing a 20% increase after controlling for baseline values and daily rice consumption. The greatest improvements in iron status were seen in those nonanemic women who had the lowest baseline iron status and in those who consumed the most iron from rice. Consumption of biofortified rice, without any other changes in diet, is efficacious in improving iron stores of women with iron-poor diets in the developing world.
Journal of Nutrition (2005) 135 (12) 2823-2830