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Posts Tagged ‘malnutrition’

Photo: Mohammad M. Rashed
Of the roughly 200 houses in Makhunik, Iran, 70 or 80 stand only 5.0 feet to 6.5 feet tall. Even this boy would have to stoop to get in the door.

Long before the Hobbit, stories abounded around the world about miniature races of people. In Iran, there is actually a kind of proof.

As Shervin Abdolhamidi writes at the BBC, “In the first part of Jonathan Swift’s book Gulliver’s Travels, Lemuel Gulliver washes ashore on the island country of Lilliput, where he encounters the Lilliputians, who stand barely taller than [6 inches].

“While Swift’s Lilliput is merely a fantasy, a comparable village exists in the eastern extremities of Iran. Up until around a century ago, some of the residents of Makhunik, a 1,500-year-old village roughly [47 miles] west of the Afghan border, measured a [little over a yard] in height. …

“In 2005, a mummified body measuring [10 inches] in length was found in the region. The discovery fuelled the belief that this remote corner of Iran, which consists of 13 villages, including Makhunik, was once home to an ancient ‘City of Dwarfs’. Although experts have determined that the mummy was actually a premature baby who died roughly 400 years ago, they contend that previous generations of Makhunik residents were indeed shorter than usual.

“Malnutrition significantly contributed to Makhunik residents’ height deficiency. Raising animals was difficult in this dry, desolate region, and turnips, grain, barley and a date-like fruit called jujube constituted the only farming. Makhunik residents subsisted on simple vegetarian dishes such as kashk-beneh (made from whey and a type of pistachio that is grown in the mountains), and pokhteek (a mixture of dried whey and turnip).

“Arguably the most astonishing dietary anomaly was a disdain for tea – one of the hallmarks of Iranian cuisine and hospitality.

“ ‘When I was a kid no-one drank tea. If someone drank tea, they’d joke and say he was an addict,’ recalled Ahmad Rahnama, referring the stereotype that opium addicts drink a lot of tea. The 61-year-old Makhunik resident runs a museum dedicated to Makhunik’s historic architecture and traditional lifestyle. …

“Although most of Makhunik’s 700 residents are now of average height, reminders of their ancestors’ shorter statures still persist. Of the roughly 200 stone and clay houses that make up the ancient village, 70 or 80 are exceptionally low. …

“Constructing these tiny homes was no easy feat, Rahnama said, and residents’ short stature wasn’t the only reason to build smaller houses. Domestic animals large enough to pull wagons were scarce and proper roads were limited, meaning locals had to carry building supplies by hand for kilometres at a time. Smaller homes required fewer materials, and thus less effort. Additionally, although cramped, smaller houses were easier to heat and cool than larger ones.”

Ah-ha! The wisdom of the Tiny House was tested centuries ago in a remote Iranian village! “The sun also riseth and goeth to his downsetting, and there is no new thing under the sun.”

More here.

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Sweet potato evangelism has won the World Food Prize. I learned about this at National Public Radio, which has a regular feature on eating and health called the Salt.

Dan Charles reports, “One summer day in 2012, on a long drive through northern Mozambique, I saw groups of men standing beside the road selling buckets filled with sweet potatoes. My translator and I pulled over to take a closer look. Many of the sweet potatoes, as I’d hoped, were orange inside. In fact, the men had cut off the tips of each root to show off that orange color. It was a selling point. …

“In Africa, that’s unusual and new. Traditionally, sweet potatoes grown in Africa have had white flesh. …

“Those orange-fleshed sweet potatoes along the road that day represented the triumph of a public health campaign to promote these varieties — which, unlike their white-fleshed counterparts, are rich in Vitamin A. [In June], that campaign got some high-level recognition at a ceremony at the U.S. State Department. Four of the main people behind it will receive the 2016 World Food Prize. This prize is billed as the foremost international recognition of efforts to promote a sustainable and nutritious food supply.

“This year’s laureates are Maria Andrade, Robert Mwanga, Jan Low and Howarth (Howdy) Bouis. Three of them — Andrade, Mwanga and Low — worked at the International Potato Center, which is based in Peru, but has satellite operations in Africa. Bouis worked at the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, D.C. …

“In recent years, researchers have documented health improvements among villagers in Mozambique and Uganda, simply because they chose to eat sweet potatoes with orange flesh.” More at NPR.

Don’t you love the orange truck? I call that multichannel messaging.

Photo: Dan Charles/NPR
Maria Isabel Andrade is one of four researchers honored with the World Food Prize for promoting sweet potatoes that are orange inside to combat malnutrition.

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