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Challenge of protein deficiency: Survey finds that Nigerians are victims of protein deficiency

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By Audrey Lotechukwu

THUR, JUN 18 2020-theG&BJournal- Protein Challenge Nigeria, presented The Protein Deficiency Awareness webinar themed: ‘Nigeria’s Food Culture And The Challenge Of Protein Deficiency’, last week to draw attention to dangers and causes of malnutrition.

The webinar followed a survey conducted on protein deficiency in the country, which has emerged as a key national issue.

Protein deficiency prompted the Federal government recently to propose dietary diversification as long-term measure for the resolution of various types of malnutrition.

In his presentation, the keynote speaker, Dr Omadeli Boyo, managing director, Pinecrest Specialist Hospital and Public Health expert, explored the unique and Indigenous food of the various ethnic groups in the country as well as the various types of malnutrition prevalent in the country.

Carbohydrates such as rice and garri form the most commonly consumed food in Nigeria, he noted.

He says that beans has been identified by many authors as the most commonly consumed protein rich food outside of animal proteins such as chicken, turkey and beef.

‘’However these animal proteins can be classified as rare luxury items in the meals of most homes The cost of animal protein has made this class of food prohibitive,’’ Dr Boyo said.

Dr Boyo noted that the lower middle and low socio economic classes eat more of beans as protein source. He also identified the most prevalent types of malnutrition prevalent in Nigeria to include, iron deficiency anemia (IDA), protein-energy malnutrition (PEM), Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) and Iodine deficiency disorder (IDD).

For him, food is part of Culture and is a reflection of the way of life of a people. He suggests that Nigeria’s food culture has been impacted by culture from outside, and spoke to the need for culture change, what he themed as BREAKING THE ICE which can be achieved through sensitization of the communities, taking into cognizance the Knowledge, Attitude and Practices of the various ethnic groups.

In other words, confronting communities with the realities, the dangers and causes of malnutrition through awareness campaigns regarding benefits of meals rich in proteins. This, he suggests can be done through co-opting government at all levels for policy enactment and mass mobilization as well as co-opting education/educators and students from early childhood through universities to drive home the inherent dangers associated with protein deficiency.

Other key speakers at the webinar includes Linda Nwaodu, a nutritionist, Lanre Fasakin, managing director, Communication Marketing Research Group Limited (CMRG), a leading Research firm and Mr Ezekiel Ibrahim, President, Poultry Association of Nigeria.

Linda Nwaodu, who coordinated the discussion, said that the timing of the webinar comes at an appropriate time when the whole nation is enmeshed in the impact of COVID-19 on households.

Lanre Fasakin’s team conducted the survey among a random sample of 2, 041 households across ten locations in the country, representing the six-geo-political zones.

The survey finds that Nigerians appreciate the essence of protein and reasonably associate it with health and wellbeing. The survey also finds that carbohydrates accounted for much more of what Nigerians consume. Rice and swallow (eba, amala, pounded yam and bread) enjoyed a near universal consumption pattern-91% in all-slightly above 9 out of every 10 Nigerian.

At a much lower level is beans as the most widely consumed protein at 26%. The inference is that most Nigerians consume their carbohydrates without protein.

The households in both rural and urban areas of the country are victims of protein deficiency, the survey finds. About 1 out of every 4 household eat their carbohydrates without protein. The study also finds that one quarter does not consume all the six protein rich food in their households, namely beans, meat, fish, soya beans, milk and eggs.

What drives the choice of what is eaten is availability and affordability.

Ezekiel Ibrahim, President, Poultry Association spoke to the issue of affordability which he said has stunted the level of protein consumption among Nigerian households. He suggested that the poor income levels of households account for the very low level of protein consumption by Nigerians.

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