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article imageHow fish micronutrients can help malnourished people

By Tim Sandle     Oct 8, 2019 in Health
A new study discloses the potential of marine fisheries to help address nutrient deficiencies faced by millions of people residing in coastal areas. This is a pressing issue for food security policymakers.
Globally millions of people are experiencing malnutrition (especially children), including those who live in coastal regions. With people living close to the seas, the cases of malnutrition occur although there are plenty of fish species being caught close to where people are living.
According to the research, the types of fish common to coastal areas are a rich source of micronutrients, such as iron, zinc, and calcium; plus omega-3 fatty acids. The effects of micronutrient deficiencies include maternal mortality, stunted growth, and pre-eclampsia.
Many of these cases are solvable, according to the study. According to lead researcher Professor Christina Hicks (Lancaster University): “Nearly half the global population lives within 100km of the coast. Half of those countries have moderate to severe deficiency risks; yet, our research shows that the nutrients currently fished out of their waters exceed the dietary requirements for all children under five years old within their coastal band. If these catches were more accessible locally they could have a huge impact on global food security and combat malnutrition-related disease in millions of people.”
The finding was based on data relating to the concentration of seven nutrients from over 350 species of marine fish. This was analysed using statistical model (predictive modelling), which assessed the level of nutrients in a given species of fish contains. Additional factors examined were the diet of the fish, seawater temperature and energy expenditure.
The model was used to construct a map detailing the global distribution of nutrients relating to existing marine fisheries. This data was then superimposed with the concentration of nutrient deficiencies globally. The analysis showed that many important nutrients were available in the fish already being caught. However, the fish were not reaching many local populations.
As an example, most fish caught off the West African coast is sufficient to meet the nutritional needs of the people living within 100km of the sea. To address this, reforms are needed, including addressing illegal fishing, as well as driving changes to cultural practices and norms.
The research is published in the journal Nature, with the research paper headed: ‘Harnessing global fisheries to tackle micronutrient deficiencies’.
More about fish micronutrients, Fish, Nutrition, Malnourished
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