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Food-Based Approach, Cheapest Way to Prevent Malnutrition – Experts

Professionals in the nutrition and healthcare industry have agreed that using the food-based approach is one of the most cost-effective ways to prevent malnutrition. This, they explained, begins with adequate nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life and adequate maternal and adolescent nutrition.

This assertion was made by panelists at the Protein Challenge Webinar Series 5, themed: ‘Bridging the Knowledge Gap’ held on Thursday, November 5, 2020.

Prof. Henrietta Nkechi Ene-Obong, Professor of Human Nutrition, Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences, University of Calabar, Cross River State, stated that capacity must be developed, to bridge the knowledge gap, and put such knowledge into action.

She said that mothers should be encouraged to engage in exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, and to continue breastfeeding for two years, noting that adequate complementary feeding should also be promoted. She said: “Plant protein alone is not adequate to support maximum growth and development in infants and children. Plant proteins should be supplemented with animal source foods like fish, poultry and eggs.”

Prof. Ene-Obong also urged people to complement their proteins. According to her: “In family meals, it is important that we learn to mix our carbohydrates with proteins. For example: rice and beans; yam and eggs. We must ensure that infants and young children consume foods from at least four food groups, including grains, roots and tubers; legumes and nuts; dairy products; flesh foods and eggs; vitamin A-rich fruits and vegetables (like carrots and sweet potatoes) and other fruits and vegetables.”

She explained that proteins are made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of the body tissues; hence they are found throughout the body. Pregnant and lactating women need extra proteins to help in the development of the foetus and milk production, she noted.

She revealed that healthy adults needed to consume an average of 0.8g of protein per kilogram of body weight, for individuals with minimal to intense physical activity.

Also lending her voice, Dr. Ifeoma Akeredolu, Chief Lecturer, Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Yaba College of Technology, said that protein deficiency still lingers in Nigeria because of ignorance and poverty. She explained that many people are unaware of the dietary guidelines, adding that the food-based dietary guidelines in Nigeria are all outdated. She called for a review and update of the guidelines, in accordance with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) standard. She also encouraged people to develop exciting recipes, to create variety in meal planning.

Discussants also stressed the need for more people to come into the healthcare space, noting that Nigerians were naturally averse to visiting health facilities or consulting health practitioners. 

Buttressing the point, Dr. Bimbo Oyedokun, a medical expert and a healthcare management consultant, said that protein deficiency can be medically detected and treated. Symptoms of protein deficiency include poor mental functions, limp hair, pale skin and dental problems. He argued that e-health services and medical technology can be used to mitigate protein deficiency in Nigeria.

The webinar was moderated by Chef Anwuli Ogbonnaya, Chef and Founder of PartyParty Kitchen, Lagos. She said that people had to consciously adopt recipes with a variety of local food sources such as millet, sorghum, acha (hungry rice), oats, groundnuts, soybeans, oil bean seed (ugba), pumpkin seed (egusi) and Bambara groundnuts (okpa).

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