Experts task Nigerians on protein deficiency in diets

Experts have advised Nigerians to consume protein rich diets in other to stay healthy.

They gave the advice during a Protein Deficiency Awareness webinar with the theme ‘Nigeria Food Culture and the Challenge of Protein Deficiency.’

The Nigeria Protein Deficiency Report had revealed that carbohydrates were the most consumed foods among Nigerians, leaving many deficient of protein. The report which is the result of a nationwide survey conducted in 2019 showed that rice topped the list of foods consumed among Nigerians, with 91 percent, and closely followed by ‘swallows’ such as eba, pounded yam, fufu, amala, etc. at 83 percent

Dr  Omadeli Boyo , a Public Health Expert and Medical Director , Pinecrest  Specialist Hospital , said  carbohydrates such as rice and garri were the most  commonly consumed food in Nigeria.

He said proteins were nutrients needed by the human body for growth and maintenance, adding that they were also used in membranes and needed to form blood cells.

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

However, he said these animal proteins could be classified as rare luxury items in the meals of most homes in the country.

“The cost of animal protein has made this class of food prohibitive. The lower middle and low socio economic classes eat more of beans as protein source,” he said.

Dr Boyo said most proteins are decomposed to single amino acids by digestion in the gastro-intestinal tract.

“Digestion typically begins in the stomach when pepsinogen is converted to pepsin by the action of hydrochloric acid and continued by trypsin and chymotrypsin in the small intestine. Before the absorption in the small intestine, most proteins are already reduced to single amino acid or peptides of several amino acids.”

He said a healthy and balanced diet contained varieties of nutritious foods, such as carbohydrates, proteins, vegetables, fruits, fish, nuts and whole grains.

To ensure culture change in the diet in the country, the expert called for sensitisation of communities and confronting them with the realities, the dangers and causes of malnutrition.

He said others were awareness campaigns on benefits of meals rich in proteins and stakeholders buy-in  involving women, farmers,  cooperatives, traditional institutions,  religious organisations, town unions,  labour unions, and media/film industry.

Lanre Fasakin, Managing Director of a research firm, CMRG, said there was need for awareness on the implications of protein deficiency, adding that the Nigeria Protein Deficiency Awareness report revealed that affordability and availability  largely determine the diet among Nigerians .

Ezekiel Ibrahim, President, Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN), said chicken was a cheap source of animal protein and that there was need to pay more attention to agriculture being the major driver of good nutrition.

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