Biofortification for combating 'hidden hunger' for iron

Trends Plant Sci. 2012 Jan;17(1):47-55. doi: 10.1016/j.tplants.2011.10.003. Epub 2011 Nov 16.


Micronutrient deficiencies are responsible for so-called 'hidden undernutrition'. In particular, iron (Fe) deficiency adversely affects growth, immune function and can cause anaemia. However, supplementation of iron can exacerbate infectious diseases and current policies of iron therapy carefully evaluate the risks and benefits of these interventions. Here we review the approaches of biofortification of valuable crops for reducing 'hidden undernutrition' of iron in the light of the latest nutritional and medical advances. The increase of iron and prebiotics in edible parts of plants is expected to improve health, whereas the reduction of phytic acid concentration, in crops valuable for human diet, might be less beneficial for the developed countries, or for the developing countries exposed to endemic infections.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / prevention & control
  • Crops, Agricultural / chemistry
  • Food, Fortified*
  • Humans
  • Iron / deficiency*
  • Iron, Dietary / administration & dosage*
  • Iron, Dietary / pharmacokinetics
  • Micronutrients / deficiency*
  • Phytic Acid / metabolism
  • Plants / chemistry*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified
  • Prebiotics


  • Iron, Dietary
  • Micronutrients
  • Prebiotics
  • Phytic Acid
  • Iron