RESEARCH findings by nutritionists have revealed that lack of sustained community health education has rendered about 97 per cent of Tanzanians unaware of the healing power in proper food consumption.
They have also revealed that nearly 80 per cent of money spent on national healthcare services could have been saved if the government and non-governmental organizations embarked on a simple but consistent education on the 'right food' to take.
During exclusive interview with Dr Hesperance Odhiambo, Nutritionist from Tumaini Hospital in Dar es Salaam and other interviewed medical doctors, male and female adults and students, the 'Sunday News' learnt about unbelievable neglect of simple but necessary dietary facts, which could have kept millions in good health. Dr Odhiambo gave an example of garlic that she referred to as 'nature's wonder drug'.
She said despite the fact that herbalists for more than 2,000 years have spoken about the medicinal value of garlic, surprisingly pharmaceutical companies or relevant authorities talk very little about it for fear that they would lose business.
"People's good health must be a priority and the community should be assisted to know more about simple facts on food intake in order to avoid numerous diseases. Modern researches, for example, have confirmed that garlic is as effective as many modern antibiotics, without any side effects.
It has powerful antibiotic, antiviral and antifungal characteristics," Dr Odhiambo explained. She added: "If consumed raw, garlic can prevent or reverse high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and cancer. It lowers cholesterol level, boosts the immune system, lessens body fatigue, and resists colds and flu, among others."
The expert, however, was explicit on the complexity of the situation saying that even those with better income continue to take the wrong combination of food. She drew two food pyramids as an illustration on the acceptable diet on the left hand side and the wrong combination which, incidentally, is preferred by many people and has become a way of life.
The acceptable food pyramid shows that a human being should consume more of the whole grains, then fruits and vegetables, leguminous proteins and small quantities of fats, sugar and fried foods. "Unknowingly people consume exactly the opposite.
They take more of fats, sugar, fried foods, meat and polished foods and very little of fruits and vegetables. Body exercise is not part of life unless recommended by a medical doctor after falling sick," she explained.The expert added:
"This kind of wrong dietary planning exposes all chances for consumers to fall sick. This is why we have increasing number of people suffering from high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, cancer, high cholesterol level, weakened body immune system and lowered IQ."
Dr Stanley Lyimo from Muhimbili National Hospital (MNH) warned against too much consumption of highly procesed foods because absorption of starch to the blood stream during digestion is hurriedly accomplished ending up releasing more sugar content to the blood, the condition likely to lead to diabetes.
He recalled his visit to China several years ago and said, "Community health education on proper diet intake must be a priority to reduce unnecessary costs on medication. It is not a matter of poverty but awareness," Dr Lyimo said.
He cited a popular fruit -avocado -- which is a good source of potassium (for brain's IQ) and vitamin D. Avocado fruit can lower cholesterol levels, increase sexual desire and to stimulate menstrual flow. How much does it cost? How much of this you have taken in the last 12 months?" he inquired. Ernest Metili (59) admitted to have been unaware of the need to consume fruits like avocado.
"Actually I thought these are for the children. In my culture it is embarrassing for an adult to consume fruits like avocado," he confessed. Another nutritionist, Othman Mohsin Ruhimi, questioned the validity of the ongoing global campaign on food fortification which means addition of supplements or nutrients to food supplied for consumption.
"This is absolutely ridiculous. Why keep silent on consumption of highly processed foods only to spend more money on food fortification? Teach people the benefits involved in recommended consumption of food. Ignorance has overtaken people to the extent that some are ashamed of taking ugali made from unhusked maize flour (dona)," Ruhimi said .
Pupils interviewed at Majengo Primary School in Mwananyamala, a place with a high number of chip retailers selling chips, admitted to consuming chips daily. "I find it difficult to eat anything else. Chips go well with eggs especially when they are hot as the oil t gives a nice flavour," Rebecca Eliachim, Std VI pupil explained without knowing that too much fat in her body is unhealthy.