Sweet potatoes come in white, cream, yellow, orange and purple, but U.S. researchers say orange sweet potatoes are best source for vitamin A.
Betty J. Burri of the Western Human Nutrition Center at the U.S. Department of Agriculture says in some developing countries vitamin A deficiency is common.
An article published in the Comprehensive Reviews of Food Science and Food Safety explained how orange sweet potatoes could help prevent vitamin A deficiency in developing countries where this nutritional disease causes more than 600,000 deaths per year -- mostly of young children or pregnant women.
Sweet potatoes in the United States are largely orange, but in some parts of Africa the custom is to feed orange sweet potatoes to livestock and white sweet potatoes -- which have very little pro-vitamin A carotenoids -- to people, Burri says.
Ongoing educational programs have been developed to guide these populations to eat more orange sweet potatoes and improve their vitamin A status, but the food industry could develop different food products made from sweet potatoes such as sweet potato flour, which can be made into biscuits and buns, Burri says.