In a recent study, researchers at MIT discovered a way to prevent vitamin A deficiency in children. The researchers developed a polymer to encapsulate vitamins and other micronutrients. This helps protect the nutrients from degradation during cooking and storage. It also protects them from ultraviolet light.
The encapsulated vitamin A particles were evaluated in animal and human studies, showing that they were able to absorb at the same level as vitamin A that is consumed on its own. The encapsulated particles were also resistant to degradation in boiling water. This enables them to be incorporated into foods that may otherwise be unsuitable for vitamin A fortification. These fortified foods have the potential to become a solution to this global public health issue.
One of the main causes of child blindness is vitamin A deficiency. Vitamin A plays a vital role in the development of the eyes and immune system. It also protects against disease and infection. This is why the World Health Organization has recommended that infants and children should receive vitamin A supplements at routine vaccination contacts. But the availability of vitamin A in developing nations is often limited.
This lack of vitamin A in the diet can lead to several different symptoms, including night blindness, dry eyes, Bitot’s spots, and corneal ulcers. It can also cause stunted growth in children. Fortunately, there are many food sources that can provide vitamin A to the body. Some of these are eggs, chicken, and whole milk. However, these are only a few of the foods that contain vitamin A.
According to the World Health Organization, vitamin A deficiency is prevalent in both developing and developed countries. It is the leading cause of preventable blindness in low-income countries. In fact, as many as 250,000 to 500,000 children are blinded each year due to this condition. Despite the seriousness of the problem, it is often not detected early, which can make treatment more difficult. In order to prevent this deficiency, doctors will complete a complete medical examination, review the patient’s history, and take a physical exam of the eyes.
The researchers at MIT were able to successfully encapsulate vitamin A and iron into a polymer. They formed particles that were 100 to 200 microns in diameter. The polymer, which is classified by the FDA as generally safe, was then coated with starch to help prevent the vitamin A from sticking. They then boiled the powdered particles for two hours, allowing them to release the micronutrients. Then, they measured the vitamin A levels in the blood of participants.
Using encapsulation, the researchers found that the vitamin A and iron particles were absorbed into the body at the same rate as free vitamin A and iron. These results demonstrate that the vitamin A and iron in the polymer form are able to reach the body’s cells and are bioactive. The polymer also protected the micronutrients from degradation by oxidizing chemicals.
While this new technology is not yet ready to be incorporated into everyday food products, the researchers are working to scale up the manufacturing process. Two companies have expressed interest in using the technology to fortify foods.