Forgotten ancient grains and Type 2 Diabetes

July 29, 2021

Our 2018 conference, “Reshaping Agriculture for Better Nutrition”, showcased the work of the Smart Food Initiative led by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). Joanna Kane-Potaka, who heads the initiative, argued the need for greater diversity in diets and on farm with the mainstreaming of ‘smart foods’  – food that is good for you (nutritious and healthy), good for the planet (environmentally sustainable) and good for the farmer (viable and climate smart). Australia’s DFAT has funded the Smart Food Initiative at ICRISAT, to test the markets for acceptance and nutritional benefits of millets and sorghum, and Australia’s ACIAR invests in ICRISAT’s work.

The Crawford Fund was pleased to assist with spreading more good news about smart foods by assisting with a media outreach on a new report that shows that eating millets can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and helps manage blood glucose levels in people with diabetes. Diabetes is increasing in all regions of the world and there is clear evidence that people with diabetes are at higher risk of serious illness.

The authors reviewed 80 published studies on humans of which 65 were eligible for a meta-analysis involving about 1,000 human subjects, making this analysis the largest systematic review on the topic to date. This study is the first in a series of studies that has been worked on for the last four years as a part of the that will be progressively released in 2021.

In a range of radio and print interviews in Australia, Joanna, one of the co-authors of the study published in Frontiers in Nutrition, noted that “Millets, including sorghum, have many advantages for Australia, being an option for farmers during a climate crisis as they are very hardy and able to grow in high temperatures with minimal water. There are many opportunities to develop a wide range of consumer products with millets, ranging from pancake mix to soups, energy bars, breakfast cereals, health shakes and more. This could be a triple win for the farmers, industry and consumers if promoted.”

The full press release is here.