Team:Paris Bettencourt/Background


Malnutrition is a lack of vital nutrients. Many vitamins, minerals, and essential amino acids can not be produced by human metabolism and must be obtained from dietary sources for good health. One billion people worldwide do not have an adequate diet and are malnourished, and an additional 850 million people are undernourished. The consequences are weakness, fatigue, blindness, infant mortality, compromised immunity, and many dangerous and debilitating medical and mental health conditions.
Efforts to fight malnutrition have been shown to be one of the most efficient developmental aids for developing countries. In 2015, the Paris Bettencourt iGEM team will produce genetically engineered microbes to produce and distribute zero-cost vitamin supplements to specific communities that need them.

A Tour of the Deficiencies and Deficiencies Related Disorders around the world

Vitamin A Deficiency

Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is, along with iron, iodine and zinc deficiencies, one of the most prevalent and severe micronutrient deficiencies in the world. People whose diets are mostly based on starchy foods like rice are especially at risk, as these foods do not contain retinol (vitamin A) or provitamin A (carotenoids). Symptoms of vitamin A deficiency include xerophthalmia (extreme dryness of the eyes), night blindness, retinal degeneration, cancer, impaired immune response, birth defects and death. 13.8 million children have some degree of vision loss related to vitamin A deficiency. It is estimated that 250,000,000 preschool children have a vitamin A deficiency. Of those 250 million, 500,000 become blind every year. Half of the children who become blind die within 12 months.

(The highest prevalence of vitamin A deficiencies are reported in regions of Africa and South-East Asia.)

In India, an estimated 2 million people die every year because of vitamin A deficiency-related diseases. 1.9 million are disabled for the rest of their lives. The states with the lowest incomes are the most affected.

Iron Deficiency

Iron deficiency is the most common deficiency in the world.
WHO estimates of iron deficiency anemia rates in 2002 (yellow is lowest, red is highest.)

The main cause of iron deficiency is inadequate intake. Symptoms of iron deficiency include fatigue, dizziness, hair loss, weakness, pica, anemia and thrombocytosis.
The consumption of foods with high iron content, such as red meat, poultry, and insects can prevent iron deficiency-related disorders. Non-heme iron can be found in vegetables such as lentils, beans, and tofo, but has a reduced bioavailability.

Heme Iron
Phytic acid is a saturated cyclic acid which has a strong affinity for important minerals such as calcium, iron and zinc. Bound minerals form an insoluble precipitate that is far less absorbed in the intestines. It is a major issue for people whose diet is mainly based on foods that contains phytic acid. Rice contains phytic acid and is consumed as a staple food in India and in east Asia, worsening the deficiencies status in those countries.

Phytic Acid

Riboflavin deficiency or ariboflavinosis

Riboflavin is a cofactor involved in a lot of enzymatic reactions. It can be found in many foods, including meat, legumes, and mushrooms.
Yeast extract is known to be especially rich in B2.

Ariboflavinosis symptoms are including ulcerations of the mouth, tongue and lips, rashes, inflammation of the eyes, photosensibility. Because of it’s involvment in iron absorbtion, B2 deficiency often results in anemia.
Deficiency during pregnancy can result in heart defects and deformities.

Because riboflavin is not stored in the body, it needs to be eaten on a regular basis.
In rice eating population of Asia, studies are showing that even if the average energy intake is adequate, the average riboflavin consumption was only covering 70% the RDA. This partially explain the spreading of anemia in south-east Asia and in India


Cobalamin (vitamin B12) Deficiency or Hypocobalaminemia

Vitamin B12 or cobalamin is a complex molecule that can only be produced by bacteria. All animals have to get their B12 from microorganisms in various ways. Humans usually get their B12 from consuming meat, fish, eggs and dairy products. Vegetarian and especially vegan populations are at risk of having a B12 deficiency.

B12 is crucial for brain and nervous system development and maintenance. Lack of it can cause severe and irreversible damages to the brain and nervous system. Symptoms are including depression, psychosis, lethargy and extreme weakness.

In India, a majority of the population follows a vegetarian diet due to various cultural and socio-economic factors. Studies have shown that 75% of people have metabolic signs of b12 deficiency (hyperhomocysteinemia and methylmalonic acidemia). Additionally, 50% of pregnant Indian women have low levels of plasmatic B12, which can lead to birth defects. 80% of preschool children are also deficient.

Bibliography Potential impact and cost-effectiveness of Golden Rice Alexander J. Stein1 , H.P.S. Sachdev2 & Matin Qaim October 2006
Samuel T.M.a, f · Duggan C.b, d · Thomas T.a · Bosch R.c · Rajendran R.a · Virtanen S.M.e, f · Srinivasan K.a · Kurpad A.V.a
Malnutrition Quantifying the health impact at national and local levels Monika Blössner Mercedes de Onis (WHO)
Levels & Trends in Child Malnutrition UNICEF-WHO-The World Bank Joint Child Malnutrition Estimates