Developing World's Malnourished Must Turn To Legumes For Protein

by Tanya Thomas on Sep 30 2009 8:46 AM

A recent report has revealed that legumes could turn out to be a nutritional powerhouse to help overcome malnutrition among an estimated 800 million undernourished people in the developing world.

Published in an upcoming issue of Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, the report points out that providing safe, nutritious and wholesome food for poor and undernourished populations has been an increasing challenge for the developing countries, where protein-energy malnutrition is among the most serious problems.

And this is because of increased populations, scarcity of fertile land, and degradation of natural resources.

Thus, wild and underutilized legumes have emerged as cost-effective alternatives to the unreliable supply of animal-based protein in developing nations.

Although common legumes such as soybeans and cowpeas are available, the demand for these protein-rich sources is not being met.

On the other hand, researchers throughout the world are tapping into natural wild and underutilized legumes to alleviate hunger and overcome malnutrition in developing nations.

Several species of wild and underutilized legumes, such as Sesbania, Mucuna and Canavalia, possess strong nutritional and pharmaceutical value.

With proper processing of these legumes, food scientists are certain that with further research these plants will provide food for humans and animals as well as a potential way to overcome protein malnutrition issues that currently affect developing nations.

"Further research is needed to explore the entirety of the underutilized legumes' nutritional potential and researchers hope to find them to be a source of nutraceuticals for new food formulations, biofortification and new product development," said lead researcher Rajeev Bhat.