Adding Meat, Milk to Diet Dramatically Improves Nutrition for Poor Zambians

ZAMBIA - Since 1961 in Zambia there has been a notable decline in the availability of milk, meat, eggs, and beans, and an increase in cassava and vegetable oils.
calendar icon 11 August 2016
clock icon 2 minute read

The resulting diet is vitamin and mineral deficient, contributing to health problems in the country.

Adding livestock to poor households in developing countries such as Zambia is shown to improve their financial status, but how the addition of milk and meat to their diet effects their nutrition has not been studied.

Researchers at the University of Illinois compared four diet scenarios to better understand differences among differing dietary approaches to help improve the nutrition of the poor in developing countries such as Zambia.

They started by establishing a typical diet, and then added different foods constituting the same amount of calories to this baseline. The first scenario added milk, the second meat, the third milk and meat, and the fourth scenario added extra to locally available vegetarian foods to try and improve nutrition.

"When comparing all four scenarios, the milk-alone scenario increases the calcium level to a 67 per cent probability of being adequate. We find that the plant source food-enhanced diet only eliminates the risk of vitamin A inadequacy," said U of I economist Peter Goldsmith.

"But the milk plus meat scenario raises all essential nutrients to the recommended dietary allowance, with the exception of calcium, which has the probability of being 78 per cent adequate, and vitamin D, which has the probability of only being 20 per cent adequate."

Mr Goldsmith added that livestock might not be suitable for all areas, for example where there is not enough experienced labour, and plant-based dietary improvements might be easier to implement. He said that more studies are needed to identify the best ways to improve nutrition.

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