Contribution of indigenous fruits and vegetables to dietary diversity and quality


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Presentation given by Dr. Bruce Cogill at the International Horticultural Congress 2014.

The world has a historically unprecedented abundance of food, though contemporary food systems face numerous new challenges from population growth, natural resource
depletion, and rapid dietary transitions away from diverse, locally-sourced and sustainable mix of foods towards diets dominated by homogenous, highly-processed, energy-dense, and animal-source foods The alarming increase in diet and lifestyle-related non-communicable diseases (NCDs) alongside persistent poverty and undernutrition demands a reassessment of dietary choices, guidelines, policies and programmes.

This presentation presents 5 case studies on the contribution of diverse foods, particularly indigenous fruits and vegetables, to culturally-acceptable, cost-effective, sustainable, and nutritious diets.

Read more about our work on diet diversity for nutrition and health here:

Understanding sustainable diets - Four papers, three published in high impact peer-reviewed journals, further our understanding of sustainable diets. Find out more here:

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Contribution of indigenous fruits and vegetables to dietary diversity and quality

  1. 1. Contribution of Indigenous fruits and vegetables to dietary diversity and quality Bruce Cogill, Ph.D. Keynote 45 SYM13 Friday 22 August 2014
  2. 2. OUTLINE Section 1: Global malnutrition Section 2: Consequences of changing diet Section 3: Reasons for trends Section 4: Policy and programme actions Section 5: What is the evidence Section 6: Five case studies Section 7: Challenges Section 8: Conclusions
  3. 3. Section 1: Global malnutrition
  4. 4. Changing Diets – 10 major food companies Source: The Huffington Post, April 2012
  5. 5. Dietary transition • Changing markets • Refrigeration • Changing consumer demands • Changing lifestyles • Urbanization
  6. 6. Section 2: Consequences
  7. 7. Increasing contribution of NCDs to cause of death (Rural Bangladesh 1986-2006) 7 Source: Rising NCDs Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascula r diseases, some cancers, obesity
  8. 8. Section 3: Reasons for trends
  9. 9. Less choices, more choices 300,000 100,000 30,000 7,000 120 30 3 - Known plant species - Used by humans - Edible - Used as food at local level - Important at national scale - Provide 90% of plant calories - Provide 50% energy supply (rice,
  10. 10. Section 4: Policy and programme actions PHOTO
  11. 11. 11 Dietary guidelines tell us something • Diversity is key – sustainability is coming • WHO (2003) ≥ 400 grams of fruits and vegetables per day • Other examples - Brazil Food Guide - Health Council Netherlands - Swedish National Food Council - Nordic Council - Australia dietary guidelines
  12. 12. Treating and preventing under and overnutrition – from pills to improved diet and livelihoods 12 Supple-ments Nutrient dense/Therapeuti c Fortification staple foods Oils Biofortification of staple foods Food, diet diversity and quality based solutions September 2013 Nutrition Marketing Diversity Programme, Bioversity International
  13. 13. Section 5: What is the evidence?
  14. 14. Causality – bi-directional biodiversity  diet diversity  diet quality nutrition/health 14 • Challenges in understanding the linkages, pathways of biodiversity in human nutrition and health (Hough 2014) • Reductionist approach to nutrition with focus on single nutrients and foods (Hoffman 2003 and Burlingame 2004)
  15. 15. Some challenges to understanding relationships and action (Diverse Diet – Nutrition) 15 • Complex • Lack of clear definition of what is meant by biodiversity and diet diversity • Modelling is challenging with complex pathways and limited or different levels of data • Lots of studies associating environmental change and dietary diversity
  16. 16. What is the evidence? • The value of traditional foods and diets is being re-evaluated worldwide (e.g. the Mediterranean diet) • All countries have valuable and rich traditional foods • There is a need to assess the relative nutritional benefits and related health outcomes of these traditional foods and dietary patterns
  17. 17. State of Origin – “Common” Fruits and Vegetables Source:
  18. 18. Key concepts Concepts Aspects include Indigenous / traditional / local foods • Indigenous foods, locally produced usually with traditional systems • Socially and culturally accepted as local food • Eaten by ancestors or introduced for a very long time Introduced/ exotic foods • Foods consumed now but not consumed by ancestors • Imported • Not socially and culturally accepted as specific local food • Non traditionally processed (industrially processed ) • Locally produced foods of recent introduction in the area Abandoned foods Foods consumed by ancestors but not consumed now Ultra Processed Processed ready-to-eat or ready-to-heat food products consumed as snacks or to replace home-prepared dishes Food diversity Number of different foods/food groups
  19. 19. 19 Comparison of nutrient content of select South Pacific Fruits and Vegetables (per 100 g)
  20. 20. Section 6: Five case studies – on the role of indigenous fruit and vegetables
  21. 21. 21 Case Study 1: From indigenous food to global commodity – Arugula or Rocket Eruca sativa • 1994 -1998: Project on underutilized Mediterranean species • By research and advocacy • Italian project’s experience evolved over the years into a solid framework now being tested and disseminated to many countries around the world Source: S. Padulosi, Bioversity International
  22. 22. 22 Case Study 2: Bananas and beta-carotene Cavendish Common Variety <5 μg/100g pro-Vit A carotenoid South Pacific banana varieties <8500 μg/100g pro-Vit A carotenoid Source: Burlingame, FAO (2013) and Bioversity International
  23. 23. Case Study 3: Traditional African leafy vegetables (ALV) in Kenya • Local ALV - nutritious, affordable, adapted to local growing conditions and cultural traditions • 2007: Over 40 different species (10% wild) including Amaranth, African nightshade, cowpea, pumpkin, spider plant, bitter lettuce and vine spinach • Considered to be an inferior good but consumption rising – information lacking IMPACT Of those growing ALVs, 52% participated in marketing 2/3 households reported increased incomes, while ½ reported increased consumption No Diet or Nutrition assessment (Gotor and Irungu, 2010) Also see ARDC
  24. 24. Case Study 4: Role of wild foods in reducing the cost of a nutritionally adequate diet in Baringo District, Kenya Bioversity International, Save the Children UK and the Museums of Kenya Objective: Documenting the role of wild and underutilized foods in reducing the cost of a nutritionally adequate diet for children aged 6 to 24 months and women Method: • Ethnobotanical surveys to inventory wild species • Market price assessments and seasonality • Culturally acceptable average food consumption frequencies and portion sizes • Selection of 5 wild neglected and underutlized species (NUS) for modelling in Cost of Diet analysis • Cost of Diet linear programming to assess the cost of a locally appropriate, culturally acceptable, cost-optimized, nutritious diet in dry and wet season. Analysis with and without wild NUS foods.
  25. 25. Percentage of nutrient requirements met by the modelled diet without wild foods (only deficient nutrients are shown) and additional percentage of nutrient requirements met by including all 5 wild foods together or the wild fruit Berchemia discolor apart in the modeled diet for the dry and wet season
  26. 26. Case Study 4: Results from Running LP Tool Without wild foods: • modelled diets were deficient in Fe for all age groups (women and children) during dry season • Infants aged 6 to 8 months: Vit. B6 and Ca deficient during dry season, Fe and Zn deficient the whole year Ziziphus mauritiana With 5 wild foods: • modelled diet could lower the cost of the diets (up to 64% for some age groups) and contributed to meet FAO/WHO recommended nutrient intakes • Berchemia discolor had the highest impact on the cost of the diet and on meeting recommended nutrient intakes for Fe •With or without wild foods, it was not possible to meet all recommended nutrient intakes in all seasons for children aged 6 to 12 months Berchemia discolor Balanites aegyptiaca Ximenia americana Solanum nigrum
  27. 27. potatoes from indigenous staple to global phenomenon Plant breeding, adaptation, behaviour change, consumer Source: Low et al. 2009; Harvest Plus
  28. 28. Section 7: What are the challenges in identifying and promoting indigenous fruits and vegetables to improve dietary quality 28
  29. 29. 29 Some Challenges include: • Confusing nomenclature • Lack of identification, naming and cataloguing • Propagation and value chains underdeveloped • Considered an inferior product or good • Need to be commercial, scalable, and researchable • Quality control, food safety, information
  30. 30. 30 Questionable nutrition and health claims • Superfood claims e.g. moringa, kale, açai • Elevated nutrient and health claims • Lack of understanding of nutrient content/bioavailability • Interactions among nutrients and food components • Food handling, processing and preparation • Level of intake or dose Source:
  31. 31. Section 8: Conclusions
  32. 32. Concluding observations I • We need to climb out of the reductionist hole – Look at Food Systems & Diet Patterns • A ‘Whole of Diet’ Approach - Foods are more than just the sum of nutrients, agricultural systems more than the sum of crops => whole of diet / landscape approaches are needed • Optimize use of available biodiversity to provide quality diets, decent incomes and sustainable production systems while conserving biodiversity for future generations • Better evidence and tools, such as linear programming, to identify nutrient gaps, and optimize the choices of foods across the seasons to close gaps
  33. 33. Concluding observations II • Local populations have a wealth of knowledge on biodiversity and indigenous fruits and vegetables plus rigorous science • Evidence of the importance of dietary diversity including fruits and vegetables and dietary quality with links to both over and undernutrition and some diet related NCDs • Less evidence of links between indigenous fruits and vegetables and dietary quality. This is due to the lack of standard measures, data and the challenges of modelling complex systems. There are plenty of anecdotes and case studies but attribution remains a challenge • Given public, private sector and even some policy interest in the importance of indigenous fruits and vegetables, especially given diet transition and rising diet related non communicable diseases, there is a strong need to: o generate better evidence of the health and nutrition attributes; o ensure the cultural and non-nutrition aspects are captured and shared; o identify the scalability and accessibility of these foods; o further develop and reach agreement around measurements of biodiversity, diet diversity and intake; o look for opportunities to monitor policies and programmes that link biodiversity, indigenous fruits and vegetables and nutrition; and o engage with teaching and other capacity strengthening to improve training and capacity.
  34. 34. Indigenous fruits and vegetables --We need to know more • Food components appreciated by consumers, manufacturers, etc. • Diversity, hardy, good adaptability, versatility in use, resilient, sustainable • Rich food culture and traditions • Not easily scalable compared with some commodity crops • Lack of improved/enhanced varieties and practices • Lack of information on nutrient content, development etc. • Drudgery in processing • Disorganized or non-existent market chains • Perception of being ‘food of the poor’ • Scarcely represented in ex situ collections + –
  35. 35. The 29th International Horticultural Congress 17-22 August 2014 Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre Brisbane, Australia SYMPOSIUM No. 13: Promoting the Future of Indigenous Vegetables Worldwide Plaza Room 9 For more info: