Malaysia: Nutrition Sciences Can Aquatic Food Eliminate Malnutrition and Obesity at the Same Time?
Governments around the world are increasingly prioritizing aquatic foods to nourish nations. Researchers call for a systematic policy approach to ensure aquatic foods help reduce malnutrition rates.
Penang/Malaysia — New research has found that a growing number of nations focus on fishery and aquaculture to ensure nutrition and improve public health. Published in the journal “Fish and Fisheries”, the study assessed the alignment of objectives in national fisheries and public health nutrition policies finding 77 of 158 national fisheries policies identified nutrition as a key objective in the sector, and 68 of 165 public health nutrition policies identified the importance of fish and shellfish consumption as key objectives. The researchers revealed the more recent policies were more likely to be associated with improved coherence among sectors.
Aquatic foods — animals, plants and microorganisms harvested and farmed from water — are rich in micronutrients and essential fatty acids crucial to human health, and fisheries and aquaculture are increasingly recognized for their capacity to contribute to reducing global micronutrient deficiencies and diet-based health risks. Findings show nations that do not make the link between aquatic food systems and health policies have higher rates of obesity and malnutrition, leading authors to call for targeted policies to realize the potential contribution of nutrient-rich aquatic foods to healthier food systems.
Researchers recommended systematic policy approaches that promote greater coherence between the sectors in a bid to counter stubborn malnutrition rates, especially in low- and middle-income countries. The research is based on growing empirical evidence of the potential of aquatic foods to improve human health. The scientists support the inclusion of these foods in national dietary guidelines, consumption advisories, nutrition programming and private sector engagement.
The paper’s co-author Dr. Eddie Allison, World Fish’s director of science and research for aquatic food systems, said: “In the last decade the research community in fisheries and aquaculture has developed a strong focus on the nutritional contribution that aquatic foods make to human nutrition. We wanted to see if all this research was being reflected in policy and practice: are food and nutrition programs around the world including fish and other aquatic foods? Are fisheries management agencies and departments prioritizing or even acknowledging the role that aquatic foods play — or could play — in ending malnutrition?”