In many West African countries where malaria attacks the general population of the people what is their dietary intake like? What are their foods or nutritional values?
In most West African countries, the diet is dominated by starchy tubers or grains, such as cassava, rice, sorghum and millet. This base foodstuff is often served alongside a vegetable or meat-based stew or soup, often thickened with leafy greens or vegetables such as okra. Meat has gained in popularity in recent years, and there has also been a shift from the use of traditional oils (palm oil near the coast and shea nut oil further inland) to processed and hydrogenated vegetable oils.
While the traditional diet is fairly balanced, the emphasis on high amounts of starch can lead to mild malnourishment (particularly through lack of protein) and micronutrient deficiencies. Increasing the proportion of meats and oils in the diet, as is becoming more common, tends to reverse malnutrition into obesity, while not solving the micronutrient deficiencies.
Having said all that, there is little evidence that diet can specifically protect against malaria infection, although good overall health, which can be assisted by a healthy, balanced diet, may provide some protection against progression of the disease and the ability to fight the infection.