On how tiny fish can help fight global malnutrition

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Global malnutrition is one of the greatest challenges facing the world today. According to a recent report, more than 828 million people worldwide suffer from malnutrition and 3.1 billion do not have access to a healthy and balanced diet. One of the key problems is the lack of sufficient micronutrients and, above all, protein in the diet, which leads to various health problems, such as growth retardation, weakened immune systems, brain development problems and even death.

Tiny fish – big potential

According to a recent study published last December in Nature Food, small fish called pelagic fish, such as sardines, anchovies, herring and sprats, can provide low- and middle-income countries with an abundant and inexpensive source of micronutrients.

Malnutrition and food insecurity are serious problems facing many countries around the world. Currently, there are about 3 billion people in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa who cannot afford enough nutritious food. Malnutrition is on the rise. In Africa alone, more than 10 million children suffer from this condition.

According to the study’s authors, a mere 20% of locally caught small pelagic fish could provide all children under the age of five living near the coast with a daily portion of highly nutritious food. In light of these results, the researchers believe that eating tiny fish can help meet the nutritional needs of millions of people in developing countries, as well as contribute to the health and well-being of societies.

“Our findings show that the nutrients needed to combat malnutrition are within reach of those in need who live near coastal and freshwater ecosystems around the world. These small, locally caught fish are full of ingredients crucial to maintaining a healthy diet. They are already being caught in sufficient numbers and are inexpensive. Small pelagic fisheries must be exploited sustainably, and catches must reach needy, local populations,” – writes study author Dr. James Robinson of Lancaster University.

Tiny fish – benefits

Small pelagic fish are rich in protein, vitamins and minerals (vitamin A, D and B12, folic acid, calcium and iron), nutrients essential for health. They are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which support brain function, help lower cholesterol, improve blood circulation and prevent heart disease. In the case of children, their supply in sufficient quantities is crucial for the development of the brain and nervous system.

In addition, it is safe to eat small fish because they do not contain as much mercury and other contaminants as larger species such as tuna or halibut.

It’s not just the health benefits that speak for eating small fish. It is also prompted by the positive environmental impact of such a diet. Food sourced from water is much greener than many other sources of protein, such as meat or dairy. Producing meat or milk requires a large amount of water and land acreage, and involves greenhouse gas emissions. Also, compared to larger fish species such as tuna or salmon, tiny fish compare favorably. They are exposed to a much lower risk of overfishing and resource depletion. In addition, they are easier to grow and produce and relatively inexpensive compared to other sources of protein and nutrients. And importantly, these fish are widely available in low- and middle-income countries, where they can be an important food source for millions of people.

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