DOST prescribes calcium-rich diet for Filipinos

November 25, 2014 11:51 pm 

By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Nov. 25 (PNA) — A combination of malunggay (Moringa oleifera) and dried dilis (anchovy) is a perfect diet for majority of Filipinos who have insufficient intake of calcium, according to the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

Calcium is essential to the body's nervous and muscular systems and its functions are involved with normal cardiac rhythm, blood clotting and healthy bones.

In women, low calcium is associated with osteoporosis in which bone density loss occurs, leaving bones fragile and susceptible to fractures.

The DOST regional office for Bicol here on Tuesday said nearly 90 percent of Filipino households have inadequate calcium intake, according to the latest nutrition survey conducted by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI).

“Only one in every 10 Filipino households meets the average requirement for calcium. The consumption of Filipinos for milk and milk products decreased by seven grams, from 49 grams per capita per day in 2003 to 42 grams per capita per day in 2008,” the survey noted, according to DOST Regional Director Tomas Briñas.

It also revealed that calcium is the least consumed nutrient in the Filipino diet, noting the drop in proportion of households meeting the Recommended Energy and Nutrient Intakes (RENI) for calcium from 16.0 percent in 2003 to 11.5 percent in 2008.

The survey further showed that six- to 12-year-old children have the lowest consumption of calcium according to population groups at 0.26 grams per day.

Based on the RENI, calcium requirement differs according to population groups and sex.

The male and female adults aged 19-64 years old need 750 milligram (mg) per day of calcium while those 65 years old and over need 800 mg per day.

Pregnant women are also required to take 800 mg per day while male and female groups aged 10-18 years old need the highest amount of calcium intake at 1000 mg per day.

The survey also noted that “in general, the estimated average recommendation for calcium was not met and registered very low proportions across population groups at around 9.8 percent, Briñas said.

Calcium intake, he said, can be increased through more consumption of fish, milk and calcium-fortified fruit juices and drinks, particularly for people with lactose intolerance or milk allergy.

In fish, the richest sources of calcium in the diet include dried dilis while in green vegetable, it is malunggay.

A combination of these two, Briñas said, makes a perfect diet against calcium-deficiency.

Besides, he said, malunggay, which is grown in almost every backyard of rural Bicolano household, is rich in Vitamin A—a weapon against blindness–and rich in protein, potassium, zinc, iron and essential amino acids.

It also helps in balancing the cholesterol levels in the body and balances sugar levels, hence it is helpful in the fight against diabetes.

Dried dilis is one of the several fish varieties that are always available in local markets which, besides being rich in calcium like sardines, is also high in polysaturated fatty acids that help lower cholesterol level and reduce the risk of heart disease.

Bicolanos usually prepare this malunggay-dried dilis dish cooked in coconut milk and laced with plenty of garlic and some chili for a mouth-watering hot and creamy menu.

“Well and good as coconut milk is a healthy addition to the diet because it contains a high level of omega 3, 6 and 9 fats along with high amounts of amino acids while garlic is touted as a cure for fatigue, parasites, poor digestion, and respiratory ailments,” Briñas said.

More recent health claims have garlic as being beneficial in treating heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes and is also known to be an antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral.

Chili, which is very popular among Bicolanos, on the other hand, is rich in vitamin C and helps boost blood circulation and also acts as a blood thinner to help protect against strokes.

Others natural calcium sources, Briñas said, are canned fish; saluyot, alugbati and mustasa in the vegetable group as well as legumes, seeds, nuts, snails and mollusks.

Milk and milk products also contain highly absorbable calcium and are also good sources of other vital nutritional elements such as protein for building and repairing of body tissues and vitamin A for better eyesight and healthy skin.

He said several studies have cited calcium deficiency as producer of what is known as hypocalcemia or low calcium levels in the blood, resulting in symptoms such as cramps, joint pains, heart palpitation, increased cholesterol levels, slow pulse rates, insomnia, impaired growth, excessive irritability or nerves, brittle nails, eczema and numbness or tingling of the arms and legs.

One of the first symptoms of a calcium deficiency is a nervous affliction called tetany, which is characterized by muscle cramps, numbness and tingling in the arms and legs.

Osteoporosis is another calcium deficiency ailment in which the bones become porous and fragile because calcium is withdrawn from the bones and other areas faster than it is deposited in them. (PNA)



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