Monday, June 11, 2012

‘With cassava, wheat in our flour we can tackle diabetes’

FOOD fortifications are
carried out for so many
reasons. Most times,
fortifications are done when
policy makers observed
some gaps either in a
particular micro nutrient as
relates to deficiencies in the
populace in order to remedy
the situation. For instance,
there are different levels to
fill this gaps which includes;
supplementation in which
the micro nutrient in
question is given in the form
of capsules or tablets or
added in some food for
The second option is
fortification. In fortifying
food, we look at a particular
food that is very good and
very much available for the
majority of the people.
Unfortunately, Nigerian has
no centrally processed food
system like in developed
countries. Today in Nigeria
you realise that many of our
foods are not centrally
processed. So, the only foods
that are fortified right now
are the flour, the wheat
flour, and the maize flour in
the form of semolina, you
also have the vegetable oil,
the sugar and then you have
the salt that is iodised.
These are centrally
processed to some extent;
therefore, it is easier to use
them as a vehicle for
fortification. Recently,
something happened in
Nigeria which is the
biofortification, where
cassava that contains yellow
flesh was found to contain
adequate carotene which is
the major source of Vitamin
A. Also currently, there was
controversy over the safety
and benefit of the
combination in foods.
However, the President of
the Nutrition Society of
Nigeria, NSN, Professor
Ignatius Onimawo spoke to
journalists in Lagos and
Vanguard Health Features
was there: Excerpts:
COMPARING cassava flour
and Wheat flour
I must say that I was
alarmed when I saw it on
television, where a motion
was moved in the House of
Representatives and some
information was provided to
the extent that cassava was
food that will lead to
increase in diabetes. There
was a lot of information that
were given which to my
mind should not have been,
because in the first instance,
the prevalence quoted from
that report that the diabetes
rate in Nigeria is between
20-30 per cent is completely
The diabetes rate in Nigeria
is less than 10 percent. In
fact, we have not done a
recent survey; that was just
a projected percentage. The
last survey was done around
1992 and it was not even a
nationwide survey and it put
the diabetic rate at 2.5
percent. From 1992 till now,
there is projection – that it
must have increased up to
about 9.5 per cent. So the
issue of the 20, 30 percent
does not arise. That one is
not true.
Professor Ignatius
The other is that the person
who was moving that
motion said that cassava
flour, when added to wheat
flour to make bread,
increases the rate of
diabetes; it is completely
untrue because when we
talk about diabetes, there are
two things you talk about,
which are the glycaemic
index and the glycaemic
Now, foods with low
glycaemic index are foods
that diabetics are advised to
consume and cassava is not
among the high glycaemic
index food. In fact, wheat
flour has high glacemic
index between 70-72, while
cassava has a glycaemic
index between 46 and 60.
That is the range for
Having that at the back of
our minds, it then means
that when you mix cassava
flour with low glycaemic
index with wheat flour that
has high glycaemic index,
the blend that will come with
the glycaemic index will
come down.
So in essence, if we are
going to attack diabetes,
then the mix of cassava
flour and wheat flour is even
the right step to start with
because by the time you
combine cassava flour with
that wheat flour, the
glycaemic index of the
overall product will come
down, because that of white
bread is 70 as at now. So
when you bring cassava
flour into it, and it may bring
it down to about 60, thereby
giving a better product that
will now fall within the range
of medium glycaemic index
There was a survey that was
conducted in Kenya and in
that survey, they found that
out of over 1,380 people
that were surveyed, they got
their energy or calorie intake
from cassava. About 86 per
cent of that number got their
calorie intake from cassava
and none of them was
diabetic. In the same survey,
among those who were
diabetic in that community,
they found that they rarely
took cassava. They ate other
sorts of food. So cassava is
not implicated as the
causative effects for
diabetes; that is the point I
am making.
Policy of Government on
Cassava floor inclusion in
wheat flour
My advice is that the policy
of government on the
inclusion of cassava flour
into wheat flour for the
production of bread is a step
in the right direction. And I
thought the argument were
going to be, maybe the
crumb structure of the
bread, maybe the weight of
the bread – these were
going to be issues because
of the fact that there was no
glutting in cassava flour. But
that is not the argument.
Even then, the American
government, through the
programme we had in Lagos
about two weeks ago, has
shown that even in such
situations where you use a
product that does not
contain glutting, you should
add about five percent soya
beans flour to that particular
formulation, then the loaf file
improves and therefore the
crumb structure of the bread
also improves. I think it is
another opportunity for
government to encourage
soya beans producers so
that they include five
percent soya beans flour
along with the 40 per cent of
cassava flour to the wheat
flour to produce our bread.
And that is where we have
several advantages.
One, the glycaemic index will
be lower because the
glycaemic index of soya
bean is lower than that of
cassava. Soya bean contains
a lot of protein and protein
will be good in bread. The
crumb structure will be fine
and the taste will be better,
and it will be more
nourishing than what we
have now.
I want to state that there is
need for nutrition education
in Nigeria. In fact, is good
that the National Assembly
member raised this issue
and I think, perhaps, he had
the interest of Nigerians at
heart: he didn’t want
Nigerians to become diabetic
and, therefore, now that the
information has come, it is
good that they too be
informed about this so that
they will be better placed to
serve the Nigerian public.
Lawmakers involvement in
nutrition issues with
specific reference to cassava
flour and food fortification.
At this point in time, it is the
cassava flour for bread
making. What has happened
is the neglect of nutrition by
past governments. We have
made several attempts in the
past for government to
again look into the issue of
nutrition. I understand that
during President Obasanjo’s
regime – at about the time
he was about going, he
made a pronouncement that
he had formed the National
Nutrition Council which is to
be inaugurated thereafter.
As we speak now, five years
after, that council has not
been inaugurated and that
council was to be a hub that
will link to other
stakeholders in the area of
nutrition. Within the National
Assembly there are various
sub-committees. There are
some on health.
This is the time for them to
engage professional
associations to have
nutrition society, food
science society and other
societies that are
professionally based. There
is need for us to have a
common ground to look at
some of the issues. A lot of
researches have been done.
Even trying to look at the
value chain of these
products, for instance,
sorghum is one of the crops
that the present Minister of
Agriculture is looking into.
We have done some
researches on sorghum
where sorghum has been
used to produce breakfast
cereals that looked like
Quaker Oat. It was better
nutritionally and the taste
was nice. But they are on the
shelf because there is no
collaboration between
research institutes,
universities, the industries
and the public. So that gap
has been there. And the
various sub-committees of
the National Assembly, when
they have an issue that is so
hot, they normally call for a
public hearing.
Treating diabetic patients
I will advise that they call for
public hearing in this kind of
matter. They should invite all
the professionals, including
the medical doctors that are
treating diabetic patients. Let
them come and let’s discuss
this matter so that Nigerian
people will be better
informed.This is a matter of
science; it’s not a matter of
conjecture or what a
particular person thinks.
There is need to have a
committee on nutrition
because the whole world has
realised that nutrition is
development, because if a
child is not properly
nourished, that child is going
to under-develop. Our
legislators are not aware of
this , so it is an opportunity
to draw their attention.
Advantages of cassava flour
in bread: Cassava has many
advantages. We can look at it
as a dilution factor. The level
of glutting will definitely be
reduced; therefore, it will
become highly diluted and
will have no negative effect
on those who suffer from
allergy. The impact will be so
minimal, so it is a double
advantage. Let’s look at the
taste, structure and the
weight. Every country has its
own bread. So, Nigerian
bread which is cassava and
wheat flour is really nice.

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