University Don, Professor Olubunmi Bolanle Ajayi has attributed the increase in health challenges among Nigerians to changes in dietary patterns and copying of western lifestyle.
Ajayi said there was a need for Nigerians to return to the consumption of indigenous foods rich in nutrients that are beneficial to their health.
The Professor of Food and Nutritional Biochemistry spoke while delivering the Ekiti State University (EKSU), Ado Ekiti 82nd inaugural lecture titled: “Nutrition and Health: The Inseparable Siamese Twins For Life Sustenance”.
She advised that some indigenous foods and spices, which are nutrient-dense but are almost going into extinction, be cultivated by farmers and consumed more because of their potential health-promoting nature.
“Many indigenous foods have been neglected and almost at the point of extinction.
“In Nigeria, there seems to be a gradual shift from consumption of traditional foods consisting mainly roots, cereals, beans, tubers and vegetables to fatty fast foods, snacks and drinks which is evident by the increased number of eateries in our society and number of people suffering from health challenges like diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.
“A good number of plant-based foods in our environment that are readily available, accessible, cheap and affordable to us are loaded with a lot of nutraceuticals that could be beneficial to our health, they are going into extinction due to lack of awareness of their nutritional potential.”
In his remarks, the Vice Chancellor of the state-owned university, Professor Edward Olanipekun said no one can enjoy good health without good nutrition.
He said, “Regardless of the economic situation we should not lose hope, let’s take good food and not junk food. Our aged ones are enjoying longevity due to good nutrition (fruits and vegetables).”
“This is our 82nd inaugural lecture, we are appealing to our other colleagues not to contemplate or shy away from showcasing what they have been able to contribute to scholarship and knowledge”.
She recommended that functional foods which are rich in essential nutrients (vitamins, proteins, fats, carbohydrates etc) are to be taken for healthy survival of the body. Some of the food samples according to her are: green leafy vegetables, fruits, rhizomes and seeds.
“Consumption of plant-based foods and drift away from modern westernised lifestyle diets (processed foods) would go a long way to further reduce the rate of early progression of some of the non-communicable diseases highlighted that are becoming rampant in society.”
Professor Ajayi added that the food and nutrition status of developing countries like Nigeria has remained poor due to a lack of integration of nutrition objectives into overall policies and food production programmes.
“Many common diseases and disabilities afflicting the human population in both developing and developed countries result from general malnutrition, deficiencies of specific nutrients or overnutrition.
“Inadequate diets or poor dietary habits are associated with increased risk for morbidity and mortality including birth defects, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and certain cancers. Specific nutrients, food components or metabolites singularity or in combination can also contribute to the risk of diseases.