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J Nutr. 2007 Apr;137(4):1106-9.

The role of fish in food-based strategies to combat vitamin A and mineral deficiencies in developing countries.

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Department of Human Nutrition, The Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, 1958 Frederiksberg, Denmark.


Fish is important in the diets and livelihoods of many poor people suffering from vitamin and mineral deficiencies. In this article, fish intake in rural Bangladesh and Cambodia and the vitamin A, calcium, iron, and zinc contents and nutrient bioavailability of commonly consumed species are presented. The contribution of these species to nutrient intakes as well as their potential to meet dietary recommendations are presented and discussed. Data from consumption surveys were analyzed to obtain fish intake by species. Commonly consumed species were analyzed for nutrient contents, and studies on nutrient bioavailability were conducted. In poor, rural, Bangladeshi households, mean fish intake was 13-83 g raw, whole fish per person/d. Frequency of intake of small fish was high, and small fish made up 50-80% of all fish eaten during the fish production season in rural Bangladesh and Cambodia. Many small fish are eaten whole and therefore are a rich calcium source; some are also rich in vitamin A, iron, and zinc. Even small production of the vitamin A-rich fish mola in ponds in Bangladesh can meet the annual vitamin A recommendation of 2 million children, and a traditional daily meal with the iron-rich fish trey changwa plieng can meet 45% of the daily median iron requirement of Cambodian women. Fish consumption data on the species level, nutrient analyses, awareness of the nutritional value of fish, as well as promotion of the production and accessibility of nutrient-dense species can lead to the use of fish in food-based strategies to combat nutrient deficiencies in poor people in Asia and Africa.

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