Nutritionists and public health experts have identified high cost as the major reason for protein deficiency in Nigeria.
Speaking during a webinar on Nigeria’s Food Culture and the Challenge of Protein Deficiency, Dr. Omadeli Boyo, Medical Director of Pinecrest Specialist Hospital lamented that carbohydrates such as rice and garri constitutes the most commonly consumed food in the country mainly because many families cannot afford such protein foods such as egg and beans regularly.
Boyo, who is also a public health expert, described protein as the building block of the human body system. He traced a link between low consumption of protein foods and malnutrition. He identified four major types of malnutrition as iron deficiency anaemia, protein-energy deficiency, vitamin A and iodine deficiency disorder.
As a solution, Boyo called for dietary diversification in Nigeria in form of healthy diet by families as follows:
- Eating balanced diet that contains a variety of nutritious foods
- Prepare such foods using the best cooking methods
- Eating in the right proportion
- Limit total fats consumption, especially saturated fats
- Increased consumption of fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts
- Limit intake of sugar
Boyo tasked the government on the challenge of malnutrition by sensitizing communities and attitudes, running awareness campaigns regarding the benefits of meals rich in proteins and ensuring buy-in by stakeholders such as women, farmers, traditional institutions, labour unions and the media.
He also called on the government to educate communities on the danger and causes of malnutrition, explain the link between malnutrition and disease/growth disorders and also enact acceptable policies to address the situation.
Mr. Ezekiel Ibrahim, President, Poultry Association of Nigeria (PAN) described chicken as the cheapest source of animal protein in the country. He decried the high cost of poultry production in Nigeria, lamenting that the country effectively abandoned agriculture because of oil, even when the agric sector employs about 60 percent of Nigerians who reside in rural areas.
On his part, Mr. Lanre Fasakin, the Managing Director of CMRG, a leading research firm, said a survey conducted by his firm concluded that Nigerians appreciate the essence of protein and its nutritious impact.
Fasakin said: “High cost is the major hindrance to protein consumption in Nigeria. The issue of double AA (availability and affordability) is key.”
He recommended that people should go for protein foods that are readily available and affordable, rather asking families to eat what they cannot afford to buy.
The Protein Deficiency Awareness Webinar was designed to create awareness on the importance of consuming foods rich in protein to effectively tackle the growing problem of malnutrition in the country.