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Study reveals consumption of 400 grams of fruits, vegetables can bridge gaps

From Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan

A study carried out in Nigeria and Neitherlands simultaneously has revealed that consumption of 400 grams of five varieties of fruits and vegetables daily can help in overcome the challenges of malnutrition, undernutrition, overnutrition, micronutrient  I as well as diet related non-communicable diseases.

The findings were presented at the stakeholders’ meeting of FVN-Project held at the International Conference Centre, University of Ibadan, Ibadan,  Oyo State on Thursday

The study, entitled: Fruits and Vegetables Intake Vietnam and Nigeria (FVN- Project), carried out in Nigeria, was domiciled and implemented in the Department of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, University of Ibadan. It is a collaborative project, funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and coordinated by the Wageningen University and Research, the Netherlands. The project, which involved eight other institutions across the globe, was implemented at the same time in Ibadan, Nigeria and Hanoi, Vietnam.

The research directly linked consumption of 400 grams of five varieties of fruits and vegetables to meeting nutrition requirements for good health among low-income earners in urban areas of Ibadan.

The Vice Chancellor, University of Ibadan, Prof Kayode Adebowale, who was represented by the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Administration, Prof Ezekiel Ayoola, said: “It is no longer news that Nigeria is facing the challenge of various forms of malnutrition. The prevalence of undernutrition, overnutrition. micronutrient deficiencies as well as diet related non-communicable diseases is on the increase and various sectors are working together to address this hydra-headed problem.

“This project aimed at addressing malnutrition among low-income urban populations in Nigeria and Vietnam by increasing intake of fruits and vegetables through food system innovations that improve access through the diversification of retail outlets, enhance affordability through a client-specific coupon system, and boost acceptability through promotional campaigns and behaviour change communication.’

The Local Principal Investigator, Dr Folake Samuel, of the Department of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, UI, stated that the project was executed by UI in collaboration with other participating institutions in the world. She added that the four-year project began in 2019 and two communities – Abaeja and Bagadaje, in the Akinyele Local Government area of Oyo State, were used for the study.

The objective of the project, she explained, focused on ensuring adequate consumption of fruits and vegetables, especially among the low-income urban population.

Her words: “The most important finding was that when we worked with fruit and vegetable sellers, they were able to improve their sales and it also meant that people were eating more fruits and vegetables. The coupon intervention which provided some safety net for the low-income populace to buy fruits and vegetables was successful. As well as promotional campaigns for people to understand the benefits of fruits and vegetables.”

The Co-principal Investigator of the project, Dr. Oluyemisi Shittu, that the research was to contextualise what 400 grams of fruits and vegetables mean to average Nigerians, based on the fact that there has been issues with standardisation, saying: “Taking a sufficient quantity of fruits and vegetables is very important. We are also supporting our vendors to be able to sell and attract consumers to these quantities of fruits and vegetables. This is also very important.”

A researcher based in the Netherlands, Inge Brouwer, who joined the programme via online platform, said the overall objective of the project “is to increase fruits and vegetables intake of urban low-income population, through consumer oriented interventions aimed at addressing accessibility, affordability and acceptability.”

Another researcher, Godwin Bamsa,  noted that the World Health Organisation (WHO), “has said we should eat at least 400 grams of fruits and vegetables everyday. You can do this by eating around five portions of 80 grams but we are not eating as much as we should. The advantages of consuming 400 grams of the varieties are numerous to individuals.”

Executive Adviser to Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State on Agribusiness, Dr Debo Akande, in an interview with journalists on the sidelines of the programme, noted that the project has provided empirical evidence on the importance of consuming fruits and vegetables daily, saying: “It is a project that every state should look at how it will be domesticated and scaled up as part of the intervention. The Oyo State Government will look into domesticating this as well.”

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