Nutritionists say consuming malt, tomato paste mixture can’t boost blood volume

Professor Beatrice Ogunba

Angela Onwuzoo

Nutrition experts have discredited a popular myth that bothers on the claim that consuming a combination of malt drink and tomato paste will increase blood volume in the body.

They said there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that such a mixture boosts blood levels in people suffering from anaemia.

Describing it as an unhealthy combination, the experts, who spoke exclusively to PUNCH Healthwise, said the claim was false, stressing that there is no link between tomato paste and iron that the body uses to produce haemoglobin.

According to the World Health Organisation, anaemia is a condition in which the number of red blood cells or the haemoglobin concentration within them is lower than normal.

WHO

“It mainly affects women and children. Anaemia occurs when there isn’t enough haemoglobin in the body to carry oxygen to the organs and tissues”, WHO states.

Experts say anaemia remains a major public health concern, particularly, in sub-Saharan Africa, where it is one of the causes of maternal death. The most common cause of maternal anaemia is iron deficiency or malnutrition.

The Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey 2018 showed that anaemia remained highly prevalent among women of reproductive age in Nigeria.

The survey identified nutritional deficiency and lack of basic housing infrastructure as key drivers for anaemia in Nigerian women.

A Professor of Public Health Nutrition at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, Beatrice Ogunba, said the claim that drinking a combination of malt and tomato paste will increase blood volume in the body is untrue and that there are no studies to back it up.

Ogunba explained, “What I know is that tomatoes have beta-carotene and not iron. Tomato paste can’t be converted to iron for any reason. So, I don’t know where the iron is coming from. I don’t know any scientific evidence for that. What is in tomatoes is vitamin C, beta-carotene, vitamin A, and not iron.

“So, it can’t be true that the combination of malt and tomato paste does increase blood volume. I can’t see any link between iron and tomato paste and I don’t have any scientific evidence.

“Tomato is not a source of iron; there are some iron-rich foods that give iron and not tomato. So, it is a misconception.”

The nutritionist noted that tomato paste is not fortified with iron and therefore will not be able to provide the iron needed by the body.

On the nutrition content of malt drink, the don said malt has some vitamins but not iron, stating however, that some brands of malt could contain little iron.

Ogunba however, said malt was not classified as iron-rich food, urging Nigerians with anaemia to seek medical attention and consume any animal protein such as meat and fish.

Giving further insight, a Chief Dietitian at Lagos State Health Service Commission, Olusola Malomo, said the mixture of tomato paste with a malt drink to boost blood levels in the body is a pure misconception.

Olusola Malomo

 

According to him, the redness of the tomato paste makes some people feel that it has a lot of iron.

Malomo noted, “Consumption of malt drink and tomato paste is a myth or fallacy, which has no scientific basis in boosting blood in the body, that is, the iron content in the body.

“Malt, which is a carbohydrate and tomato paste, a vitamin source with some other minerals will not combine directly just like that to boost blood volume. There may be a nutrient-nutrient interaction that may be unfavourable.

“So, combining malt and a tomato paste which is supposed to be cooked may not be giving that expected result.”

He advised people who have anaemia to increase their protein content for food, especially animal protein such as beef, chicken, and seafood.

He identified iron deficiency as a major cause of anaemia, maintaining that the malt and tomato paste combo cannot treat the nutrition-related illness.

The dietician said, “When you talk about anaemia, you see a lot of people using malt and tomato paste. They think that when they combine it, it will increase their blood level. These are misconceptions.

“If you have a shortage of blood, you can use any blood-boosting multivitamins.  Meanwhile, the tin tomato, if taken, has to go through the process of cooking. It shouldn’t be taken raw.

“Some of them don’t come back to tell us the consequences of such a combination.”

Although the health implications of the consumption of tomato paste and malt combo have not been established by any study, the dietician said he was more worried about the expiry dates of the tomato paste and their production process.

“If the process is not standard, that will affect the quality of the product and the health of the consumer. Few consumers consider their health at the point of purchase by checking the manufacturing details”, he added.

The nutrition expert explained that the producer of tin tomato did not produce it to be ingested directly into the body.

He warned, “It is a wrong combination. Tin tomatoes need to pass through a process of cooking and the instruction is that we should cook it.”

Malomo advised Nigerians to be innovative in the way they eat and to eat healthily.

He counselled, “Now, the sustainable approach to tackling anaemia is when iron-rich foods are incorporated into the menu plan.

“The problem that causes the anaemia is your diet. So for us to have a sustainable result, we need to incorporate animal protein into our diet. It is not about money but about eating healthily.

“If you can’t improve your iron status through food, you can use supplements as prescribed by a physician.“

 

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