Millets Can Combat Anemia (Study Finds) ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

Key Highlights

  • Insufficient iron is the primary cause of iron deficiency anemia.
  • Millets are a group of cereal grain rich in minerals like potassium and iron.
  • A new study adds another proof that millets can combat anemia

24.8% of the global population suffers from anemia. [1]

Anemia is a condition in which our body lacks enough healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin to carry adequate oxygen to our body’s tissues.

But nutrition researchers found good news for us. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

A new study found that regular consumption of millets can improve hemoglobin and serum ferritin levels to reduce iron deficiency anemia. [2]

Interesting right? ๐Ÿ˜„

Letโ€™s dig deep into it. ๐Ÿง

Table of Contents

How was the Research Done?

This research was done by seven organizations across four countries and was led by the Hyderabad-based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

For this study, researchers analyzed 30 previous studies, including 22 human interventions and 8 in vitro studies on the relationship of millet consumption and anemia.

These studies involved nearly 1,000 people including children, adolescents and adults, and six different millet types: finger millet, pearl millet, sorghum, and a mixture of kodo, foxtail and little millets. 

The participants in these studies were found to have consumed millets for anywhere between 21 days and 4.5 years. 

The systemic review of these studies was published in the Frontiers in Nutrition, a peer-reviewed, open-access journal in nutrition, clinical nutrition, metabolism, epidemiology and food science. [2]

What is the Result of this Study?

The researchers found that millets increased hemoglobin levels by as much as 13.2 per cent. 

Four studies in the analysis also showed serum ferritin increasing by an average of 54.7 per cent. Ferritin is an iron-containing protein in the blood and is a clinical marker for iron deficiency.

The research also showed that processing can significantly increase the amount of iron bioavailable. 

For example, millet snacks made by expansion (extrusion) increased bioavailability of iron 5.4 times, while fermentation, popping and malting tripled the iron bioavailability. 

While germination (sprouting) and decortication (dehulling) doubled the iron bioavailability.

Millet Porridge with Cheese, Millets Can Combat Anemia
Millet is a rich source of iron.

What did the Researchers say?

Dr. S. Anitha, the studyโ€™s lead author and senior nutritionist at ICRISAT said, โ€œThe study concluded that millets can provide all or most of the daily dietary iron requirements of an average person. Although the amount of iron provided depends on the millet variety and its form of processing, the research clearly shows that millets can play a promising role in preventing and reducing high levels of iron-deficiency anemia,โ€.

Dr. Jacqueline Hughes, Director General of ICRISAT, said, โ€œIt has been proven that iron deficiency anemia affects cognitive and physical development in children and reduces productivity in adults. The need for a solution is critical, and therefore bringing millets into mainstream and government programs is highly recommended,โ€.

โ€œNow that there is strong evidence of the value of millets in reducing or preventing iron deficiency anemia, it is recommended that one major research study be undertaken on anemia covering all the different types of millet, common varieties and all major forms of processing and cooking, using a uniform testing methodology. This will provide the detail required for designing interventions needed to have a major impact on reducing anemia globally,โ€ said Professor Ian Givens, a co-author of the study and Director at the University of Reading’s Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health (IFNH) in the UK.

โ€œIt has often been claimed that iron in millets is not highly bioavailable due to the supposed high levels of antinutrients. Our analysis proves this is a myth. Instead, millets were found to be comparable to typical iron bioavailability percentages for plants. Also, the levels of antinutrients in millets were identified to be similar or lower than common staples,โ€ said Ms Joanna Kane-Potaka, former Assistant Director-General, ICRISAT, and Executive Director of the Smart Food initiative who is a co-author of the study.

How Millets Can Combat Anemia?

Millet is a rich source of iron.

It also contains high-quality protein, minerals and has antimicrobial property.

One cup (174 grams) of cooked millet can fulfill your 6% of daily iron requirements. [3]

Millet upon sprouting increases the vitamin C content, aiding in the easy absorption of iron in the bloodstream.

For this reason, millet is a great food for people suffering from iron deficiency anemia.

What can you do?

Now, what does this finding mean to you?

You can include millet dishes in your diet.

Breakfast or tiffin is a good place to include it.

The Final Word

As the name suggests, iron deficiency anemia is due to insufficient iron.

Research already showed that millet is beneficial for anemia patients.

This analysis adds another proof of this statement.

However, always remember, a balanced diet with regular exercise is key to good health.


This article is written by a certified nutritionist and verified by scientific evidence. โ˜‘๏ธ

We rely on reputed and specialized media sites, academic research institutions, peer-reviewed studies, government agencies, and medical associations to source information. ๐Ÿ“ฐ

We avoid using tertiary references. Know more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy. ๐Ÿง

Following are the references of this article. 

  1. World Health Organization (WHO): Global anaemia prevalence and number of individuals affected. Accessed 22 October 2021.
  2. Frontiers in Nutrition: Millets Can Have a Major Impact on Improving Iron Status, Hemoglobin Level, and in Reducing Iron Deficiency Anemiaโ€“A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Accessed 22 October 2021.
  3. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA): Millet, cooked. Accessed 22 October 2021.

About the Author

A. R. Choudhury, ARChoudhuryMSc,

A. R. Choudhury is a IGNOU certified nutritionist in India with a Bachelorโ€™s and Masterโ€™s degree in Biochemistry.

He also has considerable research experience and additional certificates in nutrition. ๐Ÿ‘

Abdur started NutritionCrown in 2020 to organize nutrition information under one umbrella. โ˜‚๏ธ

He is passionate about empowering people to make well-informed food choices to support their health.

Abdur currently lives in India and keeps fit by weight training and eating mainly home-cooked meals. ๐Ÿ’ช ๐Ÿฅ—