Brown bag seminars: Nutrition and the double burden

25 November, 2014 by (comments)
Brown bag seminar

First brown bag seminar to encourage information sharing among CGIAR Centers in Vietnam.

By Yen Le Hoang

The first-of-its-kind Brown-bag seminar was held at the Agricultural Genetics Institute (AGI) in Vietnam on October 24. This monthly lunch seminar series aims to foster research sharing, learning and collaboration among researchers from different CGIAR Centers, coordinated by Dr. Lisa Hiwasaki, coordinator of HumidTropics in Vietnam, and Dr. Dindo Campilan, regional director of CIAT Asia.

For the first seminar, CIAT and IRRI-CCAFS welcomed researchers from ICRAF and Dr. Jason Donovan – a visiting scientist from ICRAF Peru – gave an interesting presentation on value chain approaches in improving health and nutrition.

He pointed out that global nutrition challenges not only include hunger, but also the imbalance in nutrition intake. Even though  incomes have been growing, there is an emerging double burden of both under- and over-nutrition in many middle income countries, he said. It’s essential to raise awareness among governments, NGOs, donors and the private sector about the double burden in nutrition, he added.

His presentation was backed by intensive research and illustrations which clearly showed that while the global community has taken many measures against under-nutrition, little attention has been paid to the problem of over-nutrition and overconsumption.

Donovan and his team assessed the diversion of diets in Lima, a peri-urban region of Peru with a growing problem of obesity, by calculating the fruit and vegetables (F&V) consumption. The team believed that the consumption of F&V was critical in addressing diet and health problems in urban areas. By means of the study, they hoped to find the correct methods for promoting F&V consumption in peri-urban settings in the future.

They found that F&V consumption was not only low, but also lacking in diversity, even though there is a wide range of fruit and vegetables available on the market. “There are many reasons for this: low income, culinary traditions that don’t favor F&V consumption, and limited information on the benefits of F&V consumption,” said Donovan.

The study, he noted, consolidated his belief about the role of F&V in a healthy diet and offered a solution: “To tackle the lack of F&V consumption in people’s daily diets, we must address limitations on both supply and demand, including consumers, food environment and value chain” he said. Efforts to promote diet diversity and F&V consumption must address distinct value chain challenges, such as perishability, food safety risks, and market failures related to lack of information and weak transportation infrastructures.

It’s also important to take a country’s cultural context into consideration, such as traditional diet or culinary traditions, when promoting diet diversity. Donovan’s presentation caught the attention of participants and kindled great discussion among researchers. All agreed that there is  room for greater collaboration across CGIAR Centers on this topic in the near future.

Photo credit: Yen Le Hoang

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Filed Under: Inside Asia, Inside CIAT