Today’s Solutions: October 19, 2021

We’ve previously written about the health benefits of eating sardines, but thanks to the work of nutrition specialist Dr. Shakuntala Thilsted, the potential of these tiny fish (along with anchovies) will be unlocked to improve the overall health and food security of impoverished communities in developing countries.

Dr. Thilsted chose to focus on integrating small fish into the diets of developing nations because they are very nutrient-dense. Anchovies, sardines, and other small fish species are great sources of unsaturated fats omega 3 and 6, which are essential for brain health and play an especially important role in brain development for the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. Sardines also have low levels of mercury because they consume only plankton, making them an excellent source of these healthy fats for pregnant and nursing mothers.

Evidence suggests that anchovies and sardines can reduce inflammation in several organs and are rich in vitamin B12, a nutrient that most other food groups (barring meat) lack. Meat is absent in many impoverished children’s diets, making vitamin B12 deficiencies quite common for children in developing countries.

Dr. Thilsted saw an opportunity for anchovies and sardines to become an affordable, sustainable, and accessible source of nutrients for families across the globe and started working on finding culturally appropriate means of introducing them to the diets of the developing world.

In Bangladesh, Dr. Thilsted decided to use a common cultural feature of Bangladeshi homes—the backyard “homestead pond.” Bangladesh is a low-lying country, which leads many people to build their homes on raised earth. To acquire the dirt necessary to lift their home, builders dig a hole on the property which eventually becomes a pond, generally used to stock larger fish species.

To convince families of the benefits of using the homestead pond for anchovies, Dr. Thilsted had to break through the stigma associated with smaller fish, as most consumers prefer larger fish like tuna, salmon, or carp. She worked to help people realize that smaller fish grow faster than large fish, and produce more food weight because their bones, which are packed with nutritional value, are brittle enough to eat.

She developed programs to spread awareness of the dietary uses of small fish in the kitchen, and how they can greatly benefit small children. One of her recommended methods is drying the fish and pulverizing it into a powder that can be added to rice or porridge to significantly boost the nutrient value of the meal.

According to WorldFish Director Gareth Johnstone, “Dr. Thilsted’s work on nutrition, fish, and aquatic foods challenges us to think very critically about the scope of agricultural research and the urgent call to action to transform global food systems towards healthy and sustainable diets for all.”

For her efforts, Dr. Thilsted was awarded the 2021 World Food Prize, which is compared to the Nobel Prize but for food and agriculture.

Solutions News Source Print this article
More of Today's Solutions

California opens its first solar-powered composting facility

Starting in 2022, most homes and businesses in California will be required to recycle all food and yard waste in their yard debris carts. The effort is part of new state regulation (SB 1383) which ... Read More

Internet sleuth solves decades-long guitar mystery

Canadian rock star Randy Bachman was devastated when his 1957 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins guitar was stolen from his hotel room in 1976, but thanks to a dedicated internet sleuth, the guitar has been returned ... Read More

Mustard plant could be the solution to greener aviation fuel

Aviation accounts for about three percent of all global emissions, but coming up with more sustainable fuel sources would significantly gut down on the industry’s footprint. Researchers from the University of Georgia think they have ... Read More

WHO recognizes Henrietta Lacks for her life-changing contributions to medicine

When Henrietta Lacks sought treatment for cervical cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore in the 1950s, her cancer cells were harvested without her consent. These “HeLa cells” became the first sample of human cells ... Read More

Indian student designs safe and sustainable solar ironing cart

It’s not uncommon to see ironing vendor carts in the streets of Indian cities. These carts offer quick and affordable ironing services, but their irons are often powered by charcoal, creating air pollution issues. To ... Read More

This bandage quickly identifies the severity of a burn

We recently wrote about a bandage design that indicates potential infection. Now, there’s another smart bandage design in the works. This one, literally called SMART, aims to help first responders evaluate and treat severe burns ... Read More