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Study promotes Mola fish to combat malnutrition in Bangladesh

Posted:  Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Nutritionists hail fish as an excellent source of nutrients. Now, a new study sheds light on how indulging in a fish diet could help keep malnutrition, particularly vitamin A deficiency (VAD) at bay. The study showed that eating mola fish species (Amblypharyngodon mola) can help avert diseases caused by VAD.

The study, soon to be published in the journal Aquaculture, brings to fore the potential value of farming mola fish species in rural household ponds. The results are particularly relevant to Bangladesh where the number of household ponds is touted to be over four million.

However, Bangladesh has also gained notoriety for having a high rate of VAD among pre-school children. A survey conducted by the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh and UNICEF in 2011–2012 showed that over 75% of pre-school children are vitamin A deficient. What’s worse is that the prevalence of VAD in Bangladesh has been rising despite the implementation of a vitamin A supplementation programme and the fortification of vegetable oil with vitamin A since 2012.

Vitamin A deficiency is an important cause of preventable blindness in children. The deficiency also increases the risk of disease due to severe infections and the risk of mortality in pregnant women. In this setting, Mola fish can serve as an inexpensive, locally sourced food-based strategy to curb VAD prevalence.

Mola fish species are a great source of micronutrients such as iron, calcium, zinc, vitamin A and vitamin B12, as well as fatty acids and protein. What’s more, harvesting mola fish at the proper time can double production. Mola can also be included in carp polyculture in ponds to enhance both total fish yield and the nutritional quality of the yield.

Thus, encouraging mola farming and consumption in rural Bangladesh can go a long way in improving the health of the populace. Shamsunnahar Nahid, senior nutrition consultant at the Bangladesh Institute of Research & Rehabilitation in Diabetes, Endocrine and Metabolic Hospital, Dhaka, confirmed that, “If mola fish culture is promoted nationwide through proper campaigns, that would be huge contribution towards ending malnutrition”.

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