BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
A vast majority of individuals in the third world countries are not able to satisfy their nutritional requirements for growth and development. This leads to malnutrition, which is one of the major causes of death, particularly in infants and young children. Malnutrition can manifest as protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) and micronutrient deficiency. Micronutrients are involved in metabolism of energy nutrients and their deficiency may precipitate PEM as well as their specific deficiency diseases.
Despite the approaches on the past geared towards combating micronutrient deficiencies through supplementation in form of drugs, fortification of some food products and other measures, the problem still exists. This is because most people do not routinely take their supplements as they view it as drug and others abuse it as prescribed. Most of our fortified food products are costly and the poor in the rural communities and the low socio-economic groups cannot afford to purchase them. They depend on their cheaper and low micronutrient familiar unfortified products.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has classified Nigeria among the 34 countries in the world with serious problems of nutritional blindness and xerophtalmia. Data from Participatory Information Collection (PIC) survey done in Nigeria showed that the prevalence of vitamin A deficiency (VAD) in 1993 was 9.2% in children and 7.2% in mothers (FGN/UNICEF, G-1994). Iron deficiency anaemia affects more than 3.5 billion people in the developing world (UNICEF/UNU/WHO/MI, 1999).
It has been noted that the prevalence of these micronutrients deficiencies are more in developing countries than in developed countries. WHO/OMS (2003) reported that VAD is a public health problem in 118 countries, especially in Africa and South-East Asia. Young children and pregnant women are vulnerable. The most affected groups in developing countries are pregnant women (56%), school-age children (53%), non-pregnant women (44.6%) and preschool children (42%) (ACC/SCN, 2000).
The problems associated with these micronutrient deficiencies are much and irreversible proceeding death. In children, it greatly increases the chances of morbidity and disability. Maternal night blindness was associated with almost four fold increase in the risk of mortality (Christian et al., 2000).
Based on the diverse effects of iron and vitamin A deficiencies, it is important that preventive measures capable of combating these deficiencies be adopted, especially diversification of diets at the reach of the low income groups.
- PROBLEM STATEMENT
The inherent problem of micronutrient deficiency is very difficult to combat because as hidden hunger, it is not easily detected. An estimated 250,000 to 500,000 vitamin A deficient children get blind every year (WHO/OMS, 2003). Half of them die within 12 months of loosing their sight. Nearly 600,000 women die from childbirth-related causes each year, the vast majority of them from complication which could be reduced through better nutrition, including provision of vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is the leading causes of preventable blindness in children and raises the risk of diseases and death from severe infection. Lack of vitamin A in children causes severe visual impairment and significantly increases the risk of severe infections and death from such common childhood infections as diarrhoea disease and measles. It has been shown that iron deficiency and anaemia affect more people than any other condition constituting a public health problem. It is well documented that iron deficiency leads to impaired cognitive development and lower school achievement (Granthan – Mc Gregor and Ani, 2001; WHO/NHD/Verney and Nabarro, 2003).
As a result of these life threatening effects of both vitamin A and iron deficiencies, there is a need to adopt an intervention programme that would be within the reach of the low socio-economic groups who are mostly affected. Dietary diversification using locally available foods within the communities appears to be a more feasible approach in rural communities than other approaches. However, the problem with this approach is dietary bulk and bioavailability of nutrients, particularly in the complementary infant food. This is because the stomach capacity of infants is too small (200-250ml). They will consume little quantity of food at a time, which may not meet the recommended requirement for all the nutrients (WHO, 1998). It is necessary to reduce the bulk of infant foods so that the little quantity consumed would be concentrated to meet the nutrient requirements of the infant. This study would address the problem of dietary bulk in infants feeding by developing leaf curd from fluted pumpkin (Telfaria occidentalis) leaf. This effort is directed towards improving micronutrients intake of the infants particularly the vitamin A and iron status since fluted pumpkin leaf is a good source of the nutrients. The leaf curd would be used as supplement to infant food.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The general objective of the study was to evaluate the fluted pumpkin leaf curd as possible ingredient for the formulation of complementary food.
The specific objectives were to:-
- develop leaf curd from fluted pumpkin leaf.
- determine the nutrient composition of differently processed fluted pumpkin leaf (sun and shade-dried fluted pumpkin leaf and the curd).
- determine the effect of the processed leaves on the beta carotene, iron, ascorbate, zinc, copper and calcium status of rats.
- SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The study will provide baseline information on the beta carotene and iron nutritional value of pumpkin leaf curd for its possible use as ingredients for infant food formulation.
The study will shed more light on processing methods that could be used to reduce bulk of locally available vegetables for use in infant feeding. The work will highlight the contribution of leaf curd as possible means of increasing micronutrient density of the locally available vegetables particularly their vitamin A (pro-vitamin A) and iron levels. Such vegetables if used on infant food formulation would increase nutrient intake without necessary increase in dietary bulk.