Nutritionist, Dr Olapeju Phorbee, has urged the Federal Government to adopt holistic approaches to reduce the burden of micronutrient malnutrition in Nigeria.
Phorbee, also the National Coordinator, Building Nutritious Food Basket (BNFB)-Nigeria, made the call in an interview with the press in Abuja.
She identified such holistic approaches to include: dietary diversification, food fortification, supplementation as well as biofortification.
Micronutrient malnutrition also known as hidden hunger is caused by a chronic or prolonged lack of essential minerals and vitamins required for proper growth and development of the body.
It results in several health problems including weak immune system, visual impairment, night blindness in pregnant women and children, retarded growth and reproductive potential, among others.
Phorbee said that such approach should be adopted to complement the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding of infant for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health in infants.
The nutritionist, who decried the burden of micronutrient malnutrition, identified the contributing factors to include: poor diet, increased micronutrient needs during certain life stages and health problems such as diseases, infections and parasites.
She called for consumption of a variety of foods with high vitamin and mineral content, combined with nutrition education to effectively address the menace.
Phorbee said: “Dietary diversification ensures availability of a wider selection of foods with high levels of essential nutrients and a more balance diet.
“Many nutritious food such as mangoes, pawpaw, pumpkins, dark green leafy vegetables, maize, beans, eggs, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yam, cassava, liver, milk and biofortified foods are readily available to most households, especially the rural poor population.
The problem is that most rural dwellers, even those in urban setting, do not consume such foods due to ignorance of their nutritional values, hence the burden of the hidden hunger.
“We have been doing supplementation and fortification now, we should look at more food-based approach to diversify our diet,” he said.
Phorbee said that micronutrient deficiency disproportionately affects women of reproductive age, infants and young children.
According to her, majority of this group suffer deficiencies of essential micronutrients such as Vitamin A, Iron and Zinc.