β-carotene, iron and zinc content in Papua New Guinea and East African highland bananas.
Nutritional disorders due to inadequate intake of vitamin A, iron and zinc in the East African region are unusually high. Interventions to alleviate these deficiencies rely on supplementation and food fortification programs, which are not sustainable and do not reach all the affected. Sustainable solutions to malnutrition can be developed through linking agriculture, nutrition, and health. Promotion of consumption of bananas with enhanced micronutrient content as well as enriching bananas with micronutrients through breeding could go a long way towards preventing micronutrient deficiencies in the region, since bananas are a widely consumed staple. As a starting point in promoting consumption of bananas with enhanced micronutrients and breeding for higher micronutrient content in bananas, banana accessions both local and exotic hybrid Papua New Guinea (PNG) were screened. Pulp color intensity was measured, ß-carotene was measured by high-performance liquid chromatography and iron and zinc were determined by atomic absorption spectrophotometry. ß-carotene concentrations ranged from 92.3 µg/100g to 2594.0 µg/100g, while iron and zinc concentrations ranged from 0.063 mg/100g to 0.608 mg/100g and 0.00003 mg/100g to 0.598 mg/100g, respectively. Banana pulp color intensity had a significant (P<.0001) positive correlation (R=0.491) with ß-carotene concentration. Among PNG bananas, a significant positive (P<0.01) correlation (R=0.633), between ß-carotene and pulp color also existed, while among the East African Highland cooking bananas, though positive the correlation (R=0.0.066) was not significant at P=0.05. Not only will accessions identified with relatively high concentrations of the three micronutrients be promoted for consumption, but will also be used as parents for population development through biofortification. It is expected, that through recombination and recurrent selection, micronutrient contents will be enhanced to concentrations that are significant for human nutrition. These results further highlight the importance of organoleptic characters like pulp color for choosing ß-carotene dense bananas to combat health disorders caused by lack of inadequate intake of foods rich in vitamin A.
Key words: ß-carotene, Deficiency, Bananas, Recurrent selection