February 7, 2023

PRODUCTION, CONSUMPTION OF FOODS: NHF, scientists canvass national guidelines

•Worry over WHO report that 76m Nigerians living with hypertension

By Chioma Obinna

Following the rising cases of cardiovascular diseases among Nigerians, the Nigerian Heart Foundation, NHF, in collaboration with nutritional experts has called for national guidelines on the production and consumption of foods and beverages in the country.

Expressing concern over cardiovascular-related deaths in Nigeria and the World Health Organisation, WHO, report that 76.2 million Nigerians are living with hypertension, said the situation poses the highest cardiovascular health burden.

The experts who spoke during the NHF’s Stakeholders Meeting on “Lipids and Cardiovascular Health: Global Status and the Nigerian Perspective” in Lagos submitted that diet remained the commonest risk factor in cardiovascular diseases.

In his views, the Chairman of occasion, a former two-term Head of the Department, Human Nutrition, University of Ibadan, Prof. Rasak Sanusi, stressed the importance of a controlled and regulated diet to enhance cardiovascular health.

He said: “There is a need for the development of a national guideline for the production and consumption of healthy foods with acceptable lipid concentration based on global standards and best practices.

“There is a difference between feeding and eating. Eating is what human beings do, and feeding is what animals do.  The difference between them is choice. When we have choices of what we eat then we are eating.

“On the other hand, when choices are removed, we are only feeding. With this definition today, I wonder how many of us in Nigeria are actually eating.”

Sanusi said Nigerians must be informed about their cardiovascular health.

He listed some of the expectations from the meeting including an examination of the increase in cardiovascular diseases in Nigeria, and main risk factors, as well as identifying guidelines and focus on the research agenda.

The Executive Director, NHF, Dr Kingsley Akinroye said: “We want Nigerians to live long, we want Nigerians to live healthily and we want a productive population. In a few years, quite a lot of our young executives have been dying suddenly.

“The commonest cause of sudden death is heart disease. We want everybody to be healthy. Right from the family to the policymakers., everybody has got responsibility.

“We know that the number one factor in heart disease is diet and the commonest culprit in the diet is fat. Although salt is also there fat is key.”

Akinroye said in the last 15 years, the NHF has been working in Nigeria and has labelled some oils which were heart-friendly.

He said that even though NHF was an international organisation, it ensure some flexibility in the contents to fit Nigeria’s content.

“We review what we do every four years, the last time we did this was 2016 and so, now this is high time we fall into a global standard.

“Everybody here agreed that we need to live healthy and longer. To live longer, there are certain things we must do as individuals, there are certain things government and industry must do. Individuals should take care of themselves and ensure that they check the contents of foods and beverages they buy.”

The Chairman of the Executive Council, NHF, Dr Femi Mobolaji-Lawal, said, “What we consume has a direct relationship with our cardiovascular system, especially our heart.  We know that what we consume, especially the lipids affects our heart.”

Speaking, the President, Non-Communicable Diseases (NCD), Dr Olorogun Sonny Kuku, decried low life expectancy in Nigeria, saying cardiovascular diseases accounted for a lot of deaths in the country.

Kuku regretted that “In this part of the country, we love lipids. Lipids need to be controlled and when controlled, life expectancy can be raised to 80 years.”

In his overview, the Director, of Scientific Affairs, NHF, Prof. Isaac Adeyemi, said that the objective was to an update on the current global and national status of lipid concentration and profile in foods and beverages as well as the potential impacts of food on cardiovascular health.

Adeyemi said that the goal was to ensure that Nigerians live a healthy life, “that will ensure or reduce the increasing rate of cardiovascular diseases in this country.

Urging the consumers to select heart health options, the professor stressed the need to invest in monitoring and surveillance mechanism such as laboratory capacity to measure Trans Fatty Acids (TFA) content in foods.

He added: “Consumers must read the nutrition facts on food products. The industry should replace Trans fats in processed food as soon as possible and where feasible with healthy alternative.

He emphasised the need for the experts to sensitise not only the public but also the government and industries about the importance of having healthy foods devoid of trans fats and unhealthy fatty acidsSpeaking,  the Director General of, the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Professor Christiana Adeyeye explained that coronary heart disease deaths in Nigeria reached 53,836 or 2.82 per cent of total deaths, and are responsible for the greatest proportion of the total mortality due to NCDs.

She added that there is a critical need to pay more attention to meeting global standards with a view to promoting cardiovascular health in the country.