Date of Award

6-2011

Degree Name

MS in Agriculture - Food Science and Nutrition

Department

Food Science and Nutrition

Advisor

Peggy Papathakis

Abstract

OPTIMIZING MICRONUTRIENT INTAKE OF LACTATING WOMEN IN KWAZULU-NATAL, SOUTH AFRICA, THROUGH INCREASED WILD EDIBLE PLANT CONSUMPTION

Kerry Pearson

Micronutrient consumption in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, is insufficient to meet the needs of lactating women. Inadequate intake negatively impacts the health of both the mother and infant. Increasing consumption of wild edible plants has been recommended to combat these deficiencies, but information has not yet been provided on which types of wild plants should be eaten or in what quantity. The objective of this study was to determine the optimal mixture of wild edible plants that needs to be consumed to meet the micronutrient needs of lactating women in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. This was done by creating optimization models using linear programming. Components of these models included identifying gaps between current micronutrient intake and recommended intake levels and the creation of composite nutrient profiles for groups of wild edible plants available in KwaZulu-Natal. One model calculated the optimum amount of wild edible plants that would need to be consumed in addition to the current diet to meet micronutrient recommendations. A second semi-isocaloric model calculated the optimum amount of wild edible plants that would need to be consumed if half the additional calories would replace an equivalent number of calories of the main staple food, maize. A combination of 250g leafy vegetables and 349g fruit, replacing 54g of maize meal, was determined to be the best model. This mixture will meet the micronutrient needs of 50% of lactating women and would add only 192 calories to the diet. The same blend will meet the needs of 75% of women for all nutrients except calcium, zinc, thiamin, and riboflavin. It is hoped that increased use of wild plants will also increase physical activity and make the consumption of high quality animal products more economically feasible. Understanding forces that have brought about current dietary patterns in this population and working in tandem with other nutrition intervention programs will be the best way to successfully implement these goals. More complete information is needed on the nutrient profiles of wild edible plants in South Africa and on how anti-nutrients in these plants effects bioavailability of nutrients and the health of the consumer. Despite these limitations, it is clear that a reasonable increase in wild edible plant consumption can have a tremendous positive impact on micronutrient consumption of lactating women in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

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