Bridging knowledge gap could tackle malnutrition

In view of the malnutrition burden in the country, experts have advocated for foodbased approach as one of the most costeffective ways to curb the scourge. They noted that the approach to tackle malnutrition should begin with adequate nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life, adding that adequate diet during adolescence and conception period would ensure a good start.

These are the highlights of the panelists at the Protein Challenge Webinar Series 5, with the theme ‘Bridging the Knowledge Gap.’ Prof. Henrietta Nkechi Ene-Obong of the Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Basic Medical Sciences, University of Calabar, Cross River State, said that capacity must be developed, to bridge the knowledge gap in nutrition and put that in action. According to Ene-Obong, 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.

The professor of Human Nutrition 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.”

She 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. Speaking in similarvein, the Chief Lecturer, Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Yaba College of Technology, Dr. Ifeoma Akeredolu said that protein deficiency still lingers in Nigeria because of ignorance and poverty. Akeredolu 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 further 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.

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




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