DOST programs boost food and nutrition of senior citizens
Department of Science and Technology Secretary Dr. Renato U. Solidum Jr. unveiled today the “Healthy Aging Program for PinoY (HAPPY) Senior Citizens,” a program that aims to develop food products that have the recommended nutrients needed by Filipino senior citizens, and to determine the effects of consuming the said products on muscle strength and physical performance.
The HAPPY Senior Citizens Program aims to develop one beverage and one snack food, utilizing mature green tomatoes (MGTs) which are known to contain Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). GABA, an inhibitory neurotransmitter, is known to cause several health benefits such as providing support to the immune and nervous systems. The project is monitored by the DOST-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) and is being implemented by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (DOST-FNRI). Initiated in September 2022, the HAPPY Senior Citizens project is expected to be completed by August 2024.
The project team has already tested the use of MGT powder on several food products such as biscuits, chicken nuggets, skinless longganisa, and tomato sauce. Experiments have also been conducted for the development of a high-protein beverage that can be used as an enteral formula.
Another DOST R&D Program to aid seniors on healthy living and nutrition is the Nutrition Tools, Guides, References and Standards. Produced by the DOST-FNRI, the nutrition tools include the Philippine Food Composition Tables, Philippine Dietary Reference Intakes (PDRI), and the Food Exchange Lists (FEL) for Meal Planning, 4th edition. The development of these nutrition tools is aimed at improving the quality of life of Filipinos.
The FEL provides equivalents to Filipino food staples, like a half cup of rice is equivalent to half a piece of corn or a whole piece of suman (sa Ibos). Each of the three foods contain 100 calories, 23 grams of carbohydrates and 2 grams of protein. Similarly, the FEL similarly characterizes 1 ½ pieces of pandesal as equivalent to 1 ½ pieces of a loaf bread or a half a cup of pasta. The pandesal, pasta and loaf bread equally measure to contain 108 calories, 23 grams of carbohydrates and 4 grams of protein. The FEL is especially relevant to the aging population, given their food intake restrictions and vulnerability to lifestyle diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and other cardiovascular diseases.
To develop healthier rice variants, the DOST-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) has funded the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) to develop rice varieties with low Glycemic Index (GI) value to help provide a better option for Filipinos. With low GI, these rice varieties have the potential to minimize the impact on blood sugar levels, providing individuals, especially seniors, with a healthier option to enjoy rice.?
Using gamma-irradiation and chemical mutagenesis techniques, several mutant rice populations were induced from the well-known rice variety, Tubigan 14 (NSIC Rc160). Currently, these mutant lines have been identified as potentially low-GI rice and are undergoing further crop improvement processes.
The study team also surveyed customer perceptions of low-GI rice to assess its market potential. Results revealed that low-GI rice has a potential market in highly urbanized cities where people in upper-income brackets have more disposable income and have a higher demand for healthier food options.
Said DOST Secretary Dr. Renato Solidum, “We are proud of these cross-collaboration initiatives amongst DOST agencies working as one DOST towards development of synergistic public health strategies that will generate positive impact on the health and general well-being of our elderly population.” (30)