Role of eggs in world nutrition far from paltry

Role of eggs in world nutrition far from paltry


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GOOD EGG: Eggs and poultry could play a major role in lifting the health status of sub-Saharan nations.

GOOD EGG: Eggs and poultry could play a major role in lifting the health status of sub-Saharan nations.

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While plants are important, Associate Professor Robyn Alders says the world's nutritional needs could be boosted with animal products.

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THE humble egg holds the power to help turn around poor nutrition in both developing and first world countries, according to Associate Professor Robyn Alders.

Professor Alders, who has a background in sheep production, is the principal research fellow in the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney.

Her keynote address at the TropAg2017 conference in Brisbane on Tuesday continued the event's theme calling for collaboration in tackling world nutrition issues.

But while many experts have expounded the need for a focus on native vegetables, Professor Alders hailed the virtues of animal-sourced food, presenting figures on the potential benefits to be gained from resources such as poultry and eggs.

One of those statistics was that one in four children globally are stunted and will not reach their full physical or cognitive potential.

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The stunting rate in Tanzania in children under five years old is 34pc.

Food composition tables in sub-Saharan Africa don't always reflect the range of foods which might be consumed by food-insecure populations.

She said the term malnutrition simply meant bad nutrition, a problem for both developing and first world countries but from different perspectives. 

Australian Bureau of Statistics figures presented showed that 60 per cent of Australian adults were overweight or obese in 2011.

"We have more food than ever before but we don't have less hunger. We have more crops but not less stunting," she said.

"We need to think about the nutritional quality of that food."

"We live in interesting days, we have amazing potential."

Iron, zinc and Vitamin A are key components to maintaining health, Ms Alders said.

"You don't need a lot of these but if you don't have them you are going to have consequences," she said.

MUM FIRST: Principal research fellow in the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney, Associate Professor Robyn Alders, says more work needs to be done on the nutrition requirements of pregnant women.

MUM FIRST: Principal research fellow in the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney, Associate Professor Robyn Alders, says more work needs to be done on the nutrition requirements of pregnant women.

One of the keys to improving the health amongst populations is to understand and improve the health of mothers and women.

"We know more about feeding dairy cows than we do about nutrition for pregnant women," she said. 

"It's really important to think about what women eat."

Ms Alders' figures presented show globally the demographic group which has the highest number of anaemic individuals is non-pregnant women.

Upping iron intake would help this, and some of the densest sources of iron come from animal products.

"To reach the recommended daily intake of 18mg of iron, a woman would have to eat at least eight times more spinach than cooked liver," she said.

"Iron found in vegetables (non-haem iron) is also harder for the body to absorb because it is usually bound to fibre."

Chicken giblets are a high source of iron but Ms Alders said it was a shame they are now generally removed from purchased chickens.

"I'm not completely sure where chicken giblets are going but perhaps they are not going to where they are needed," she said.

One research project she has been involved in includes helping to control Newcastle disease in African chickens so as to smooth out the peaks and troughs of chicken production.

Ms Alders' work in central Tanzania highlighted the pivotal role women play in such communities, from running farms to raising children.

Her research has led her to become a big advocate for eggs and poultry.

"I think eggs are back. They are a super-food. Under village conditions they are great and they are relatively easy to store even without refrigeration," she said.

"I truly believe if men understood that eggs would make a difference in a child's life they may forego that egg for their child."

While world nutrition goals are achievable, Ms Adlers said it will require collaboration between researchers, farmers, universities, governments and private enterprise.

Part of that will include building bridges with the urban-centric public.

"I live and work in Sydney and in Sydney they don't understand what industry supports them," she said. ​ 

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