The effect of seasonal food variety and dietary diversity on the nutritional status of a rural community in KZN
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Introduction: Dietary diversity is an indicator of access and measurement of household food security as it relates to income, location and seasonality. Dietary diversity is measured by physically counting the number of individual foods as well as food groups consumed over a given reference period. When dietary diversity is accurately measured, nutrient adequacy will be easily predicted. In order to measure dietary diversity accurately, it is important to determine household food security. Insufficient food and resources often result in food insecurity which leads to little or no dietary diversity. Poor populations suffer most from achieving dietary diversity because they consume a standard diet based on starchy staple food with limited fruits and vegetables resulting in multiple nutrient deficiencies. Rural communities rely on seasonal food variety in order to obtain fruits and vegetables needed by the body to limit nutrient deficiencies. Some seasons are more productive than others. Rural communities also use various coping strategies to deal with food insecurity in all four seasons. High levels of unemployment as well as a lack of nutrition education results in most rural households unable to cater for dietary diversity. Aim: The aim of the study is to determine the effect of seasonal food variety, dietary diversity and nutrient adequacy on the nutritional status of women in rural areas. Method: A hundred women in this community were weighed and measured and BMI determined and classified according to the WHO cut-off points for BMI. Waist circumference was measured in order to determine the waist-to-height ratio indication risk of metabolic syndrome. Twenty four hour recall questionnaires were used to determine actual intake compared to dietary reference intake (DRIs). Food Frequency Questionnaires for a period of seven days were completed captured and analysed using the SPSS version for descriptive statistics in order to determine food diversity. Coping strategies were determined by Focus Group interviews with community members in order to identify the various strategies used in time of food shortages. The severity of these strategies was determined by the community. Seasonal food consumption patterns and dietary intake behaviour were assessed over the four seasons. The highest frequency score (7) x severity weight (1-4) x10 strategies = maximum score of 140. Thus the higher the score the more food insecure the community is. Results: Food production from crops differs in different seasons. Food insecurity is high in summer and autumn due to a low number of food items harvested from crops. The community cope less in summer and autumn due to less crops available. The community is more food insecure in spring and winter due to the high number of food items harvested from crops. The community cope better in winter and spring due to the high level of available crops. Anthropometric measurements indicated that 41.2% of women between 31 and 50 and 49% of women between 51 and 70 years of age had a BMI of 30 and above. About 44% of total women are obese and 29% are pre obese. Only 26% had a normal weight. The 24 hour recall analysis indicates that the high level of obesity is due to the fact that a high number of participants consume large amount of carbohydrates every day. Conclusion: Overall results in this study indicated that this rural community is food insecure, on a higher level during summer and autumn, which leads to the consumption of undiversified diets. The women are malnourished and obese with a risk of metabolic syndrome. The information obtained in this study can be used to formulate strategies to develop interventions that can be used to access sufficient food in rural area in order to improve food insecurity, dietary diversity and, therefore, nutrient adequacy.