B40 Nutrition and Watermelons
By Hui Lin Lim
The B40 is the base group and categorised as people earning the average monthly household income of below RM 4,849 (B40 and M40: What Are The Housing Schemes Available For You?, 2020). The median household income of RM3,000 for a B40 group is not enough to accommodate their basic needs, which includes nutritional foods (Sundaram et al., 2019). The Malaysian Dietary Guidelines (MDG) written by the Ministry of Health (MOH), stated that the cost per month of preparing nutritious meals at home is between RM756.30 and RM1,153.50, this cost is location dependent (Sundaram et al., 2019). This value is around the poverty line income (PLI), which means that households earning that amount would have to spend all of their income to acquire the right nutrients to stay healthy with no income left for rent, and other commodities (Sundaram et al., 2019). In addition to this, the affordability and quality of food are declining. For households earning less than RM 5,000, though they are buying more food, the quality has decreased (Sundaram et al., 2019). This signals worsening food security.
The B40 is a vulnerable group trapped in the poverty nutrition trap where they are unable to acquire the right foods due to their limited income, but they cannot acquire more income due to lowered productivity as they do not have the required nutrients to fully function (Berma, 2019). This problem is exacerbated by their increased susceptibility to diseases and illnesses (Berma, 2019). Their reduced labour productivity is not only detrimental to themselves but to the country's GDP as well (Berma, 2019).
Based on data from 2014 from the IPH (Institute for Public Health Malaysia), the B40 in urban areas have lowered protein and dietary fibre intake. 95% of the B40 are consuming inadequate amounts of fruits and vegetables, which is characterised by consuming less than 2 servings of fruits a day and less than 3 servings of vegetables a day (Ganapathy et al., 2019). The B40 only consume around 14% of the minimum recommended servings for fruits and around 25% for vegetables (Table 1) (Zainuddin et al., 2014; Heckenlaible, n.d.). In other words, they are missing around 86% of the required nutrients found in fruits. Not consuming adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables will lead to stunting and other health issues (Pee and Bloem, 2020).
Despite 18.68% of the B40 income is allocated to purchase of fruits and vegetables, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, is not enough to fulfil their recommended daily servings (Table 2) (Sundaram et al., 2019). More specifically, 5.83% of their income goes to fruits and 12.85% to vegetables (Table 2) (Sundaram et al., 2019). The share of monthly income on fruits and vegetables has remained unchanged over the years as incomes increases and it shows evidence for raising fruit and vegetable prices (Sundaram et al., 2019).
Some households cannot afford food and skip meals to survive. In 2017 a national survey conducted by Merdeka Centre found that 15% of the people surveyed were skipping meals (Berma, 2019). Furthermore, a 2018 UNICEF survey found that 12% of the children living in low-cost flats within and around Kuala Lumpur had less than 3 meals a day (Berma, 2019). The skipping of meals leads to malnutrition, which can cause severe health issues (Berma, 2019).
Malaysia has 3 problems caused by malnutrition and they are stunting, obesity and anaemia (Berma, 2019). These problems are more prevalent in the B40 and their effects are more detrimental to their life (Ganapathy et al., 2019). Malaysia is also the only ASEAN member to have all these three malnutrition problems (Berma, 2019). Stunting is caused by not consuming adequate amounts of food or nutrition required to grow and it also increases the chances of obesity. In a study on 2,142 children residing in low-cost flats around Kuala Lumpur, it was found that 23% of the children that are of four years of age are stunted (Berma, 2019). Anaemia is the decrease in the total amount of red blood cells in the blood (What is nutritional-deficiency anemia?, 2019). Women within the reproductive ages of 15 - 49 are more susceptible to anaemia and 30.4% of those within the B40 have it (Ganapathy et al., 2019). To solve or alleviate the symptoms of these problems, the right nutrients are required. Stunting and obesity require the consumption of food from every food group and vitamins (Pee and Bloem, 2020). Anaemia requires iron and vitamin C rich food (What is nutritional-deficiency anemia?, 2019). With the lack of fruits being consumed and purchased by the B40, the watermelon has been found to be the optimal fruit to provide the required nutrients to combat these problems.
The watermelon is a nutritious fruit and is a source of vitamin C and one cup of watermelon provides 24.32% of the required daily serving of vitamin C (Table 3) (WATERMELON – Nutritional Value, 2016). It is also fat-free and is high in energy (Table 3) (WATERMELON – Nutritional Value, 2016). The watermelon also contains a plant nutrient called lycopene, which gives it its red colouring and this fruit contains more lycopene as compared to any other fruits and vegetable (WATERMELON – Nutritional Value, 2016). Lycopene reduces the risk of cancer, heart diseases as well as delay ageing (WATERMELON – Nutritional Value, 2016).
Though it may not totally eradicate the problems that the B40s of Malaysia are facing, we hope that the watermelon can improve and promote the consumption of fruits in the B40 communities.
Table 1 The recommended amount of fruit and vegetable intake per week (Zainuddin et al., 2014; Heckenlaible, n.d.)
Table 2 The percentage of the total expenditure earned contributed to the purchase of fruit and/or vegetables for each household income group (Sundaram et al., 2019)
Table 3 The nutritional value of the watermelon per serving (1 cup) and per watermelon, and the daily adult dietary requirements (WATERMELON – Nutritional Value, 2016; What are the health benefits of watermelon?, 2019)
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