Pregnant women who refuse to take eggs because of taboos are risking having babies with defects because of the lack of choline, an essential micronutrient found in eggs, a research fellow of the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR), Dr Gloria Folson, has said.
According to her, choline is important for the development of the central nervous system and lack of it can lead to birth defect in a newborn.
In some parts of Ghana, egg consumption is considered a taboo because of the belief that a pregnant woman who eats eggs will give birth to a thief.
Dr Folson discredited this notion and insisted that choline deficiency in pregnant women could affect the development of the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory.
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“It is important that a pregnant woman has a good supply of choline for good development in babies. It is not just for development at one time but sets the baby up for the future because the brain develops for the future. Choline is supplied to the baby through breast milk after it is born,” she said at the launch of National Egg Campaign (NEC) in Accra.
A 2012 research from Cornell University indicated that pregnant women who increased choline intake in the third trimester of pregnancy may reduce the risk of the baby developing metabolic and chronic stress-related diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes later in life.
The results, published in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, suggested that choline, a nutrient found in high quantities in eggs, may help protect against the effects of a mother's stress during pregnancy.
Consequently, a joint project by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA), the Ghana Health Service and the Ghana Association of Poultry Farmers (GAPFA) in collaboration with the Ghana Journalists Association (GJA), has been launched.
The three-year egg consumption campaign is to encourage every Ghanaian to eat an egg a day.
It is being supported by the American Soybean Association through its initiative known as the ‘Assisting management in the poultry and layer industries by feed improvement and efficiency strategies (AMPLIFIES)’.
According to FAO figures, Ghana’s annual egg consumption per person increased from 16 in 2009 to 18 per year in 2017.
Dr Folson, who described the figures as low, debunked the myth that egg consumption increases blood cholesterol.
Rather, she blamed the excessive use of oil and fats in the preparation of eggs for increasing one’s cholesterol levels.
“All the alarm is because high blood cholesterol levels have been linked to cardiovascular diseases such as high-blood pressure, coronary heart disease and stroke. Heart disease is the number one killer disease across the world and is on the increase in Ghana as well. High cholesterol in your blood is associated with greater risk of heart disease,” she stated.
Ghana is currently fighting protein deficiency and malnutrition among children and child-bearing women. The Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO’s) 2012 country profile report indicated nearly a quarter of pre-school children were stunted and affected by chronic malnutrition.
The underlining factor, the Director of Animal Production at MoFA, Mr Kwamina Arkoful, said, could be traced to age-old beliefs and misconceptions that have been handed down from generations but which have no factual basis.”
According to experts, eggs are a very good source of high-quality protein and good for the development of children in particular.
More than half of the protein in an egg is found in the egg white, which also contains other nutrients such as Vitamin B2 and a lower amount of fat and cholesterol.
He said apart from meeting the nutritional needs of the public, egg consumption would lead to reduction in the country’s unemployment as more and more people would be employed in the poultry value chain.
The Vice-Chairman of GAPFA, Mr Napolen Agyeman Oduro, for his part, stated that contrary to public perceptions, the association had enough capacity to meet the demand in eggs should consumption go up.
He observed that there were a number of poultry farms in the Ashanti and Brong Ahafo regions that had either shut down or were producing below capacity because of low demand.
For his part, the President of the GJA, Mr Affail Monnie, urged the media to practise solution-based journalism to deal with challenges of malnutrition facing the country.