Evaluation of a new baby food prepared from Opuntiaficusindica fruit in Wistar rats with either calcium deficient or vitamin A depletion
Vitamin A and calcium deficiency are a major health problem worldwide and represents 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 aimed to prepare a baby food from Opuntia ficus indica fruit after selecting a good drying technique that maintain the vitamin content of the dried fruit and to evaluate its biological impact in Wistar rats which were either vitamin A depleted or calcium deficient. Three drying methods were trialed for the opuntia fruit; the oven, the microwave and the solar energy. Sensory evaluation and proximate analysis for the prepared baby food from dried opuntia fruit were done. Then, thirty six male Wistar rats with body weight of 70 ± 10 g were grouped into 6 groups with 6 rats in each. The groups were: a control negative group, a control group + 150 g dried opuntia fruit, a group fed on vitamin A depleted diet, a group fed on vitamin A depleted diet + 150 g dried opuntia fruit a group fed on calcium deficient diet and a calcium deficient diet group + 150 g dried opuntia fruit. The experiment lasted for four weeks, then, serum vitamin A, serum ionized calcium and total calcium were determined as well as serum urea, creatinine, albumin, total protein and hemoglobin. Results revealed a very good acceptability of the prepared baby food, and the best method for drying that gave the highest B-carotene content was the solar energy method. Feeding rats with opuntia fruit restored serum calcium in the group that was fed on calcium deficient diet and restored serum vitamin A in the group that was fed on vitamin A depleted diet. Thus, it is recommended that the prepared baby food can be introduced for babies safely 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 deficiency.
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