Indigenous Foods to Address Malnutrition: An Inquiry into the Diets and Nutritional Status of Women in the Indigenous Community of Munda Tribes of Jharkhand, India

Elsevier, Current Developments in Nutrition, Volume 6, September 2022
Ghosh-Jerath S., Kapoor R., Bandhu A., Singh A., Downs S., Fanzo J.

Background: Indigenous people globally experience poor nutrition outcomes, with women facing the greater burden. Munda, a predominant tribe in Jharkhand, India, live in a biodiverse food environment but yet have high levels of malnutrition. Objectives: To assess diets and the nutritional status of Munda tribal women and explore associations with their Indigenous food consumption, dietary diversity, and socioeconomic and demographic profiles. Methods: A cross-sectional study with a longitudinal component to capture seasonal dietary intake was conducted in 11 villages of the Khunti district, Jharkhand. Household surveys and FFQs, supplemented with 2-d 24-h dietary recall and anthropometric assessments on 1 randomly selected woman per household were conducted. Results: Limited access to diverse foods from a natural food environment (Food Accessed Diversity Index score of 0.3 ± 0.3) was observed. More than 90% women in both seasons had usual nutrient intakes below the estimated average requirements for all nutrients except protein and vitamin C; 35.5% of women were underweight. The mean Minimum Dietary Diversity Score among women (MDDS) was low [2.6 ± 0.6 in wet monsoon; 3 ± 0.7 in winters (acceptable ≥5)]. Higher MDDS contributed to higher usual nutrient intakes (P <0.001). Indigenous food intakes in both seasons (wet monsoon and winter) were low, e.g. Indigenous green leafy vegetables [10.5 and 27.8% of the recommended dietary intake (RDI), respectively], other vegetables (5.2% and 7.8% of RDI, respectively), and fruits (5.8 and 22.8% of RDI, respectively). Despite low intakes, the Indigenous food consumption score was positively associated with usual intake of vitamin A, riboflavin, vitamin C, pyridoxine, and calcium (P < 0.05) in the wet monsoon and thiamine, riboflavin, and zinc (P < 0.001) in winters. After adjusting for covariates, Indigenous food consumption was associated with a higher usual intake of vitamin A (P < 0.001) in the wet monsoon season. Conclusion: Contextual food-based interventions promoting Indigenous foods and increasing dietary diversity have the potential to address malnutrition in Munda women.