Geomedicine and Transgenerational Health
Substantial scientific evidence supports a protective action by geo-nutrients naturally present in the soil towards infectious and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). When soils do not ensure an adequate supply of essential trace elements to the feeding of food producing animals the risks related to nutrients’ deficiencies or unbalances may substantially increase.
Total Diet Studies (TDSs) provide basis for calculating dietary intake of nutrients and exposure to contaminants. TDSs aim at assessing potential impact of dietary habits (diet and cooking practices) and identifying main dietary nutritional requirements and food chains which need particular intervention.
Total Diet Studies are under organization by international agencies in the Gulf of Guinea. Recently, for instance, the TDS performed in Cameroon has disclosed a specific problem of Se-deficiency in the Cameroonian human diet, thus indicating a Se deficient soil and a poor Se intake by food producing animals.
Selenium is essential for reproduction, thyroid function and especially to cope with environmental hazards, as an adequate intake supports both immune function and response to oxidative stress. Moreover, Se intake must be balanced with that of other trace elements essential for intrauterine development, immune function and coping with free radicals, such as Copper (Cu) and Zinc (Zn). Finally, the potential interference by major toxic elements (Cd, Hg and Pb) should be considered: these environmental pollutants accumulate in feeds and living animals and may increase Se requirements in humans by affecting Se metabolism.
Alike other African countries, during the past three decades the Cameroon and Nigeria national strategy on essential nutrients focused on direct supplementation (iodized salt, Iron and vitamin A) in pregnant women. Whereas the benefits of nutrient supplementation are undeniable, a more comprehensive involvement and empowerment of the farming and livestock system has been overlooked until now, thus limiting the potential of local agro-zootechny in supporting –through improved animal health- nutritional security and the health of the general population, including the promotion of next generation’s health/immune status.
According to the One Health principle, geomedical factors impact on human health: the definition of such factors allows management practices to be taken.
Following the relationship between essential nutrients in soil/diet and measurable neonatal/paediatric adverse outcomes, the production of enriched foods of animal origin under a One Health framework (feedingstuffs enrichment with highly bioavailable micronutrients, and balance with modulating trace elements) is an approach deserving investigation and exploitation to exploit African livestock production.