Investigating a baby food prepared from Opuntia ficusindica in Wistar rats
Vitamin A and calcium deficiencies are major health problems worldwide and represent one of the main reasons for malnutrition in childhood. Opuntia fruit is a wild plant rich in minerals and vitamins and can replenish vitamin A and calcium deficiency. The present study was aimed to prepare baby food from Opuntiaficusindica fruit after selecting a good drying technique that maintains the vitamin content of the dried fruit and to evaluate its biological impact in Wistar rats with either vitamin A depletion or calcium deficiency. Three drying methods were tested for the opuntia fruit; the oven, the microwave, and solar energy. Sensory evaluation and proximate analysis were done for the prepared baby food from dried opuntia fruit. Then, thirty-six male Wistar rats with a body weight of 70 ± 10 g were divided into 6 groups, 6 rats in each group. The groups were: a control negative group, a control group + 150 g dried opuntia fruit, a group fed on calcium-deficient diet, a calcium-deficient diet group + 150 g dried opuntia fruit, a group fed on vitamin A depleted diet, and a group fed on vitamin A depleted diet + 150 g dried opuntia fruit. The experiment lasted for four weeks, then, serum vitamin A, serum ionized calcium, total calcium, serum urea, creatinine, albumin, total protein, and hemoglobin were determined. The results revealed very good acceptability of the prepared baby food, and the solar energy method was the best method of drying that gave the highest β-carotene content. Feeding rats with opuntia fruit restored the serum calcium in the group, fed on a calcium-deficient diet and restored the serum’s vitamin A in the group, fed on vitamin A depleted diet. Thus, it is recommended to safely introduce the prepared baby food for babies as it doesn’t have any drawbacks on body weight gain or different body functions and it can protect babies from calcium and vitamin A deficiencies.
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