Animal-Source Foods Best Hunger Medicine

Animal-Source Foods Best Hunger Medicine

Small amounts of animal protein in undernourished diets make huge improvements.

Food derived from animals can improve people's health, their economic status and the environment, said participants at the Fourth Annual Iowa Hunger Summit.

Today nearly one billion people throughout the world are hungry and/or undernourished. Many struggle with deficiencies of protein, energy and calcium, which are macronutrients, and deficiencies of iron, iodine, zinc, vitamin A and vitamin B-12, which are micronutrients.

To showcase how the addition of livestock-based foods to a diet boosts nutrition, Heifer International analyzed a typical 40-year-old man living in Zambia today.

The organization said this moderately active 165-pound man would eat a basic diet of cereals along with small amounts of fruits, vegetables and meat. Unfortunately, this diet delivers less than half of the recommended amounts of calcium, Vitamin B-12 and Vitamin A, and less energy and protein than he needs.

Adding 18 ounces of milk, two ounces of beef and one ounce of chicken to this man's basic daily intake gives him 100 percent or more of the recommended amounts of energy, protein, lysine, and vitamins A, B-2 and B-12. It also increases his calcium levels to 75 percent of the recommended amount.

If there's any chance to meet the growing need for food to meet growing populations, new thinking like this will be needed, the participants said.

Based on projections by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization's, in 40 years the world's growing population will need twice as much food as we produce today. While some of this food will come from additional farmland and cropping intensity, 70 percent of the increase in supply must come from use of new and existing agricultural technologies.

Terry Wollen, veterinarian and interim vice president of advocacy for Heifer International, said the world needs to thoughtfully evaluate how foods and food systems affect four dimensions of humanity —nutrition, health, economic status and the environment.

"The good news is both research and real-world experience show that animal-source foods deliver on all four of these dimensions," said Kevin Watkins , co-chair of the Elanco Hunger Team and Hunger Board.

In 2003, in The Journal of Nutrition, FAO concluded that eating food from livestock improves human productivity and economic growth. However, while consumption of animal proteins is increasing in many places, consumption levels in some poorer countries actually have been decreasing.

Elanco and Heifer International have been cooperating in a multi-year project concerning hunger and the role of animal food products in meeting worldwide nutritional needs.

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