Africa is one of the areas of the world where proteincalorie malnutrition (PCM) of childhood is especially prevalent. A review of literature revealed causes and incidence of PCM in Africa, general pathological signs of PCM, and efforts in Africa to overcome PCM through protein supplementation. The effect of red pepper on the gastro-intestinal tract was also reviewed.

The purpose of this study was to evaluate three indigenous West African foods--peanuts, black-eyed peas, and egusi seed—as protein supplements when added to the basic West African diet of plant origin. The protein supplements were chosen because they met the criteria of economy, availability. and acceptability to the people of that area.

To test the value of these foods, experiments were conducted using weanling Sprague-Dawley male albino rats. The comparative value of these protein supplements were demonstrated through the following observations of the animals: growth (through weekly weights), food efficiency ratio (through comparing weight gain to amount ingested), endurance (through swim tests) , and organ weights. The effect of red pepper and protein supplements in the West African diet was tested in 1-uX the number and extent of gastro-intestinal lesions.

Five staples commonly used in West Africa (cassava, yam flour, plantain, rice, and corn) served as a basal diet in Experiment I. With this basal diet, the three supplements were each tested at three levels and in combinations to determine the most appropriate level of supplement to use in Experiment II. All levels were in a range felt to be within the limits of human consumption.

In Experiment II, a week's estimate of a typical diet of plant origin for a West African adult was formulated. Foods for each of the seven days were listed, and from this, the per cent contribution for each food in relation to the total diet was determined. The complete diet was termed the Basic West African (BWA) diet, and it served as the basis for supplementation in this experiment. Because a 28 per cent level of peanuts in the diet seemed to prove more effective on growth rate than other levels, the same level of supplementation was used for the three supplements or combinations of these to the diets.

Using a basal diet supplemented with peanuts, two diets were formulated for Experiment III, the only difference being the presence or absence of red pepper. With these diets, the possible effect of red pepper as used in the African diet on the gastro-intestinal tract in relation to protein utilization was studied.

Data was submitted to statistical analysis from all of the tests done except from the maze study, in which case the animals apparently lacked sufficient motivation for the test. The statistical analysis from the other tests demonstrate that the level of protein is markedly increased by supplementing the West African diet, and that the increase in protein content in the diet is significantly related to the growth response in animals. The data also indicates that not all protein supplements are equivalent in quality or in their supplementary value to the basic West African diet. Statistical pooling of diets indicates a highly significant relationship between growth and brain and muscle weights, as well as between brain and muscle weights. Analysis of data also showed that animals that do not grow well also have a loss of physical endurance.

The efficiency of utilization of the diet is markedly improved by the supplements, regardless of which is used, egusi being the poorest one. The best growth was observed with peanuts and black-eyed peas, or black-eyed peas and (This excludes the experiment with soy.) a significant difference in organ weights studied in rats on egusi. There was a supplemented and unsupplemented diet.

On the data from gastric-pathology studies, there was no significant difference except in the case of gastric mucous production in Experiment II, and none seen in Experiment III.

These studies suggest that as more peanuts, black-eyed peas, and egusi are incorporated into the West African diet, body weight, brain weight, and muscle weight are significantly increased. These results demonstrate for the first time known that locally available foods in West Africa are fully capable of markedly improving physical stamina and brain development in animals. This provides a rationale for a nutrition educational program for West Africans.

LLU Discipline





Graduate School

First Advisor

R. Maureen Maxwell

Second Advisor

Albert Sanchez

Third Advisor

Harriet M. Sands

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Nutrition -- Africa, Western; Plants, Edible -- Africa, Western



Digital Format


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Loma Linda University Libraries

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