Combating Micronutrient Deficiencies: Food-Based Approaches

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  1. The sociology of rural life.
  2. About the author?
  3. Chapter 3: Addressing the Challenge of Hidden Hunger?

Basel, Karger, , vol 91, pp DOI Over-reliance on cereal crops low in iron, zinc and vitamin A, is the cause of widespread deficiency of these micronutrients in rural populations in developing countries. However, the high prevalence of micronutrient deficiency in Malawi is not necessarily associated with poverty, where it was found that the consumption of fruit and vegetables declines as income increases, while consumption of meat and starchy foods increases [6].

There have been numerous health projects in sub-Saharan Africa SSA and elsewhere in the developing world, to address micronutrient deficiency from a medical perspective [7].

These programmes involve the prescription and distribution of vitamin and mineral supplements, which usually have to be imported. An alternative or complementary approach is to promote the inclusion of high quality food crops in the farming system to enrich the diet with essential vitamins and minerals [8, 9]. Agricultural solutions to the problem of micronutrient deficiencies have the additional advantage that they foster community self-reliance, they are sustainable in the absence of external funding, and, offer the opportunity for enhanced income by marketing surplus production.

The Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research CGIAR addresses micronutrient deficiency primarily through crop fortification by breeding and genetic transformation [10]. While this approach is making an important contribution to tackling micronutrient deficiencies [11] , diet diversification through better use of existing biodiversity offers an immediate means to address poor diet quality and can also include the use of presently available nutritionally enhanced crops, such as orange-fleshed sweet potato [12].

More than million people in the world have insufficient food to meet their daily energy requirements [14].

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However, it is estimated that 2 billion people suffer micronutrient malnutrition [15], due to the poor food quality of their farm produce or, lack of money to buy high quality foods, such as fresh meat, vegetables and fruit. Globally, the most widespread micronutrient deficiencies are vitamin A, iron, zinc and iodine. Vitamin A deficiency affects an estimated million children [16].

Women and children in sub-Saharan Africa SSA are particularly at risk of disease, premature death and impaired cognitive ability.

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Diets poor in crucial nutrients result in a weakened immune system and impaired capacity to recover from the effects of diseases, which are not normally life-threatening for well nourished children; these diseases include diarrhoea, measles, respiratory infections and malaria [20,21]. Diarrhoea kills more children around the world [1. High incidences of diarrhoea occur in populations that are usually also malnourished. Children suffering from malnutrition are unable to recover from the debilitating effects of diarrhoea and other diseases []. Deficiencies in iron, vitamin A and zinc, rank among the top ten leading causes of death through disease in developing countries [4].

Malnutrition contributes to mortality through its interaction with disease. Diseases such as cholera, typhoid and malaria are aggravated by, or even precipitated by, deficiencies in key micronutrients [25, 26]. A lack of vitamin A, in addition to its contribution to impaired eye sight, has been linked to measles mortality [27] and micronutrient deficiency is the underlying cause of a substantial proportion of deaths due to malaria around the world [28]. Zinc deficiency affects 5. The importance of dietary zinc is being increasingly recognised and it is estimated that 1.

Trials with zinc supplements have shown improvements in child growth, and lower rates of diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia [17]. Forty-eight percent of children between birth and 59 months were chronically malnourished, manifested as below expected height for age. This is the second highest of twenty sub-Saharan African countries included in the survey. Stunting is a good indicator of the nutritional status of a population because it is not affected by short-term factors such as epidemic illness and periodic acute food shortage.

HIV increases the severity of food insecurity and creates food insecurity among previously food secure households [4]. Food consumption may drop as a result of illness and falling labour productivity of household members. With fewer people to work the land, households farm smaller plots and resort to less labour-intensive crops, such as cassava, which often have a lower nutritional value [32].

Several studies have shown that HIV damages farming systems, causing significant decreases in land use, a decline in livestock keeping, resulting in declining crop yields and a reduction in the range of crops grown which in turn, can result in poor diet, lower income, and loss of soil fertility. Support from agricultural extension and introduction of new technologies, can help to maintain agricultural productivity in the face of declining labour [32]. Allen [35] described the evolution of concepts on malnutrition, from an emphasis on protein deficiency through energy deficit, to the realization that food quality in general and adequate supply of micronutrients in particular, is more of a problem than food quantity.

Cultivation of high quality food crops can improve the diet, as well as offering new livelihood opportunities for all households in rural communities in Africa. It is particularly beneficial for expectant and nursing mothers, infants and HIV patients, who are most at risk for micronutrient deficiency [8]. High quality food crops are so named because they contain higher amounts of essential vitamins and minerals than the same weight of common starch staples, such as maize, rice, sorghum and cassava.

Diet quality can be much improved by the consumption of foods derived from these crops, so that the total daily intake weight of food per person can be decreased. Most of the world's 35 million people living with HIV are micronutrient deficient and have little access to HIV testing, counseling, and care.


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    Food based approaches for combating micronutrient deficiency

    Tony P. This book talks about the taking in and use of food and other nourishing material by the body. Nutrition is a 3-part process. First, food or drink is consumed. Second, the body breaks down the food or drink into nutrients. Third, the nutrients travel through the bloodstream to different parts of the body where they are used as fuel and for many other purposes. To give the body proper nutrition, a person has to eat and drink enough of the foods that contain key nutrients. This new book examines new research in this field, which is belatedly receiving the proper attention.

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