Student research project hopes to help tackle undernutrition in sub-Saharan Africa

Exchange students studying on the University of Leicester’s Natural Sciences programme have been involved in a research project investigate major public health concerns in developing nations, including sub-Saharan Africa.

The students from McMaster University (Canada) worked on a project supervised by Professor David Harper (Emeritus Professor of Limnology & Catchment Science) which addresses undernutrition in rural areas of Kenya, examining the potential of Spirulina (Arthrospira fusiformis) – which is easily grown and nutrient dense - as a means of treating undernutrition in the developing world.

In a paper published in the African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development, the students presented a feasibility study on the harvest of Spirulina from Lake Bogoria in the Kenyan Rift Valley for use as a food supplement for undernutrition mitigation in the surrounding rural communities.

A nutrition survey revealed the local population to be deficient in a number of micronutrients, including vitamins E and B12, that could be provided through dietary supplementation with Spirulina.

The students concluded that Lake Bogoria Spirulina is an easily accessible source of food, free of toxins, and has the potential to be a sustainable means for the Lake Bogoria community to tackle undernutrition.

Using the data gathered, consultation sessions were arranged with key community groups and members to discuss the feasibility and potential for incorporation of Spirulina into the local diet – an ongoing collaborative process between researchers and the community that has already been met with some success.

The paper, ‘Tackling community undernutrition at Lake Bogoria, Kenya: The potential of Spirulina (Arthrospira fusiformis) as a food supplement', is published in the journal African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development.