Healthy and well-balanced diet is necessary for a healthy Pakistan. Poor nutrition and insanitary livelihood affect the health of children as mineral deficiency causes malnutrition, also called as “HIDDEN HUNGER”. Approximately 1200 children under the age of five years die each day in the country and more than 1/3rd deaths are due to malnutrition. Daily calories should be carefully met; deficiency of any essential dietary elements causes health problems, like iodine deficiency, cause hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism in turn triggers goiter, impairment of growth, reproductive failure, loss of hearing, cretinism and many problems in brain development. Iodine is the chemical element, which is not synthesized in the body but it is needed to the body for the normal functioning of many mechanisms. For adults “150µg” iodine per day is recommended. So, its amount should be fulfilled by our diet, which we intake daily. But unfortunately our daily diet is deficient of many essential micro-nutrients like iodine, zinc, iron etc. Major portion of the worlds iodine is present in the oceans where it is concentrated by sea weeds.

Iodine is also one of the essential micro-nutrients for human beings especially for human physiology as it is needed for normal function of thyroid glands and helps in the synthesis of thyroid hormone. Iodine also helps in the normal metabolism of the cells. Production of low level of thyroid hormone during fetal brain development stages caused irreversible mental retardation, which results in the development of low intelligence children in the country. Its deficiency decreases the IQ by 15 points.

The major reason of iodine deficiency in our diet is the absence of adequate amount of iodine in our soils and we use limited number of fruits and vegetables in our diet. Four strategies e could be used to overcome iodine deficiency in our country: 1) by taking iodine pharmaceutical tablets 2) by eating fortified industrial processing products like iodized salt 3) increasing the diversification of food items in our diet 4) biofortification.

The use of iodized salt is the only strategy being used in Pakistan to overcome iodine deficiency. But the increased consumption of iodine salt contradicts with other health issues like cardiovascular diseases in many countries. For this reason the World Health Organization (WHO) developed “THE GLOBAL STRATEGY ON DIET, PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND HEALTH (2008-13)”. One of the main objectives of this strategy is to minimize the use of salt and effective ways should be developed of entering iodine in food chain. So, the recent alternative approach adopt is the biofortification of edible plant parts with micro-nutrients. Plants have the ability to uptake micro-nutrients from nutrient rich soils with minimum uptake of anti-nutrient.

Increased bioavailability of micro-nutrients, especially in those crops, which can be consumed freshly like tomatoes, is considered as the best strategy against malnutrition problems in developing countries like Pakistan. Vegetables have more ability to uptake and store iodine in its edible parts than the grain crops. Tomato scientifically called as Solanum lycopersicum is an important vegetable crop of the world including Pakistan. This crop supplies both fresh fruits and many processed products like sauces, paste, juice and powder. Tomato fruit is full of nutrition having lycopene, α-carotene, vitamin C, flavonoids and hydroxyl cinnamicacid derivatives. Due to the presence of anti-oxidants properties its consumption protects us from cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

Iodine biofortification in tomatoes is a cost effective strategy for increasing iodine level in edible part of the plants and can easily improve the human nutrition. Tomato is the best vegetable crop for iodine biofortification due to its wide distribution all over the world including Pakistan and widely used in our daily diet. Especially ketchup made from biofortified tomatoes will help in increasing the nutrition in diet as ketchup is consumed by the person of every age all over the world. Iodine also increases the plant productivity by increasing the metabolism of nitrogen in plants. There is also no risk of losing iodine content during cooking as its fruit is freshly consumed. Iodine can easily accumulate in tomato by growing in iodine rich soils. Iodine rich soil can be made by applying iodine in the form of fertilizer or can be applied by foliar application of iodine in the form of potassium iodide.

A lot of research work is being carried out on developing Iodine biofortification tomatoes in many developed countries like America and China but little bit work is being carried out on it in developing countries like Pakistan where percentage of iodine deficiency is more. So there is a need to pay attention on biofortification of crops in essential micro-nutrients. Organic iodine from plant food can maintain our balanced diet in iodine nutrition. Iodine biofortification tomatoes ultimately can help in alleviating iodine malnutrition from our country and the children, the future generation would be more healthy and intelligent.

The authors are associated with the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan. They can be reached at <>

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