A doctoral research conducted at FCF-USP (Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of São Paulo) revealed that the intake of bioactive compounds by the Brazilian population is very low.
Present in foods of plant origin, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and cereals, the bioactive compounds in foods are not as important to the human body as essential nutrients, but with continuous consumption and in significant quantities, they confer several health benefits. through its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, vasodilating and anticarcinogenic actions.
Epidemiological studies indicate that individuals who consume more bioactive compounds have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, age-related macular degeneration and some types of cancer.
The FCF-USP survey was conducted by nutritionist Renata Alves Carnauba, who used the Family Budget Survey (POF 2008-2009) by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) to analyze food consumption data from 34,000 10-year-olds or older, distributed in the five regions of the country and in urban and rural areas.
The work was coordinated by Professor Franco Lajolo, from FCF-USP, who is a member of the FoRC (Food Research Center), a CEPID (Center for Research, Innovation and Diffusion) of FAPESP based at FCF-USP.
The results – published in two articles in the British Journal of Nutrition – showed that the average intake of carotenoids, one of the classes of bioactive compounds, was 1.8 mg/1000kcal per day.
“In countries like Spain and the United States, for example, an average daily consumption of carotenoids of 5.9 mg and 7.4 mg, respectively, was estimated”, points out Carnauba, in an interview with the FoRC’s Communication Department.
The daily consumption of phenolic compounds in Brazil was 204 mg/1000kcal, against 820 mg in France, 863 mg in Finland and 1,492 mg in Japan. For glucosinolates, the result was even lower, with a median consumption close to zero. For other populations, such as Spain and the Netherlands, a daily intake of 6.5 mg and 14.2 mg was estimated.
According to the researcher, the low consumption of bioactive compounds by the Brazilian population is mainly related to the low quality of their food.
“Less than 10% of the Brazilian population reached the daily consumption of 400 g of fruits and vegetables, which is the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO) to reduce the risk of chronic diseases”, he says.
In addition, the consumption of foods with high energy content and few nutrients has increased and the intake of dietary fiber and micronutrients is insufficient, according to information from the last two POFs (2008-2009 and 2017-2018).
This low quality of the Brazilian diet is also reflected in the risk of developing chronic diseases. “In general, the medians of intake I found for Brazilians are at least twice lower than the values ??found in epidemiological studies for reducing the risk of developing chronic diseases”, completes Carnauba.
Income is a determining factor for the intake of bioactive compounds. Individuals in the higher income brackets had significantly higher consumption of carotenoids and phenolic compounds than those in the lower income brackets.
“This happens because the consumption of fruits and vegetables, the main food sources of these compounds, grows a lot with the increase in income. We observe this both in the Brazilian population and in other countries”, says the researcher.
On the other hand, individuals with lower incomes had higher consumption of “traditional” foods, such as corn and sweet potatoes, which also contain these compounds.
“Other reasons may explain the differences in consumption observed between populations, such as food habits and preferences, which are related to the availability of food, beliefs and local culture”, he adds.
* With information from the FoRC Communication Department.