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Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is currently conducting extensive research on brown and pigmented varieties of rice (black and red) to determine how these grains can help address malnutrition in the Philippines, especially among marginalized groups.

Dr. Riza Ramos, head of the Rice Chemistry and Food Division of PhilRice, said that the study on brown rice is being conducted to determine what are the additional vitamins (B vitamins), minerals (iron and zinc), and dietary fiber that can be made part of a person`s diet.

Pigmented rice has antioxidants and phytonutrients that can prevent cancer.  It has also been used for strengthening kidney function, treating anemia, promoting blood circulation, removing blood stasis, and treating diabetes in traditional Chinese medicine.

The B-group vitamins are found in many foods but they are water soluble and delicate. This means that they are easily destroyed, particularly by alcohol intake and the cooking process. A person who has a poor diet for a few months may acquire B-group vitamins deficiency, so it is important that adequate amount of these vitamins are ingested regularly through a proper diet.

The plant breeders of PhilRice are also developing iron- and zinc-dense rice.

A study by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute shows that the prevalence of zinc deficiency in the country was 21.6 percent and 20.6 percent, for infants and preschoolers, as well as female adolescents, respectively. The prevalence among pregnant women was 21.5 percent. The elderly males had the highest prevalence at 33.6 percent, while it was 24.5 percent for elderly females.

Iron, on the other hand, is a part of many enzymes, making it a vital part of one’s diet. It is also utilized in many cell functions. Lack of iron causes delay in the formation of normal infant motor function (normal activity and movement) or mental function (normal thinking and processing skills).

PhilRice has also developed products with higher nutritional values like moringa-enriched rice crackers, bread with chili pepper leaves, and brownies with lees flavor.

Vegetable-enriched rice products are developed to deliver for additional micronutrients such as beta-carotene (precursor of vitamin A and antioxidant), folate (a form of water-soluble B vitamin), and iron, according to Ramos.

The institute is also into feeding activities for school children, and conducting seminars on dietary fiber, and other health and nutritional concerns of Filipinos.

Henry Mamucod, over-all in-charge of the Nutrition Month celebration, said that feeding activities were scheduled on July 26 in Elementary schools in the Science City of Muñoz. These schools were identified by the city`s Department of Education as having the most undernourished children.

There will also be a seminar on Dietary fiber and other health and nutritional concerns of Filipinos by food and nutrition on July 30.

“These efforts are all to help address malnutrition- over or under- in many forms or types,” Ramos said.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is a government corporate entity attached to the Department of Agriculture created through Executive Order 1061 on 5 November 1985 (as amended) to help develop high-yielding and cost-reducing technologies so farmers can produce enough rice for all Filipinos.

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Philippine Rice Research Institute