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Promoting Good Governance.

Nigerian researches Achieve Feat, Produce Health Improving Foods

By Abiose Adelaja Adams

Coming against the backdrop of the recent success recorded in the containment of the Ebola Virus Disease, EVD, there is cheery news from Nigeria again as scientists at the Federal Institute of Industrial Research Oshodi, FIIRO, are now set to commercialise products from recent research, three of which will notably tackle the problem of malnutrition in children, increase intelligent qoutient in pupils, as well as help in the prevention and management of diabetes.

This was officially announced recently at the Institute’s technology and Investment week.

On combating malnutrition which the World Health Organization, WHO), reports to be an underlying cause of more than 54 per cent of deaths in Nigerian children, the Institute came up with the ready-to-us therapeutic Foods, RUTF, for the treatment of malnourished children.

The research on this home-based ready to eat food, began in Nigeria in 2010 and stems from feeding children with a rich instant meal that supplies al the necessary nutrients.

“Up until now, this is not available in Nigeria,” sayid Funmi Oladunmoye, the principal investigator of the research.

“It is usually imported into the country. It is an approved theurapy by UNICEF and WHO. But now we have formulated it according to WHO methodology and standards;. We have done the initial tests invitro (laboratory tests) and have found that it will be effective,” she added.

The World Health Organization has recommended this ready to eat, home-based remedy, which according to it, has revolutionised the treatment of severe malnutrition by improving the lives of hundreds of thousands.

However, this product will have to compete with Plumy’Nut, manufactured by Nutriset, a French organization. But, Oladunmoye, who is one of the Institute’s food technologist, has no doubt that it will be compete effectively.

Plumpy’Nut is peanut-based with sugar, vitamins, minerals, cocoa, while the Nigerian brand is of two types -the peanut-based and soya-based. In addition, the local one is fortified with cereals, maize, vitamins and minerals, all made in Nigeria.

According to the researchers, the product is currently undergoing trial.

“Now we are in the second phase of the trial where we take it to the primary health centers to be administered on malnourished children. We don’t forsee any side effects because it is made from food,” Oladunmoye stated.

In a similar fashion, the institute’s scientists have developed a fortified snack, Soy Butter Biscuit, to enhance high intelligent quotient in children aged 0-10.

Ngozi Nnam, president of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria, said that at least 50 brain neurotransmitters are affected by the intake of nutrients in the 1st 1000days of life.

“Inability to provide adequate nutrient for proper development of the brain reduces IQ by 13.5 points, and its effect is irreversible,” she said.

She welcomes the development of Soya butter Biscuit, which is said to contain one-third of the protein a child needs in a day.

“It is suitable for school children. By eating it, their brain is supplied with the daily requirement of protein. So this solves the problem of attention span deficiency as the children can concentrate and the IQ is developed,” said F.O, Owolabi, a staff of FIIRO’s Food Technology department.

Experts like Chris Isopkwunu, head of Nutrition, Federal Ministry of Health, consider this a forward thinking innovation as most biscuits in the market offer little or no
nutritional value.

For instance, picking up a biscuit wrapper, the regular ingredients one often see is wheat flour, sugar, hydrogneated fat, emulsifier, salt, glucose, flavouring and so on.

But the soy biscuit/snack is made of soya bean, a highly rich food supplying the right proportions of micronutrient of public health importance.

healthy foods 1Remarkably, Nigeria is the largest producer of soybean in sub-Saharan Africa, yet it has not been able to harness this huge resource into feeding its largely undernourished population.

Soya bean contains more than 36 percent protein, 30percent carbohydrates, and excellent amounts of dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals, as well as oil.

Also on FIIRO’s plate is the development of plantain flour. Made from green, unripe plantain, the flour is a delicacy which can be recommended in the management of diabetes.

There were 3,921,500 cases of diabetes in Nigeria in 2013, according to the International Diabetes Federation. Worldwide, 382 million people suffer from diabetes and more than 19 million people in the AFR Region; by 2035 this will rise to 41.5 million.

Given that Type 2 diabetes, acquired through lifestyle/ dietary habits such as overconsumption of foods rich in sugar/starch, is the commonest in Nigeria, the plantain flour has come to meet this need, said the director general of FIIRO, Gloria Elemo.

Scientific journals are awash with the recommendation of unripe plantain as a dietary intake for diabetics as it is very low in sugar. This is because the carbohydrate in it is complex and is slowly released over time.

It is also very rich in iron, potassium, B- complex vitamins and magnesium. Additionally, plantain contains small amount of serotonin which has the ability to dilate the arteries and improve blood circulation.

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