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|By Ishaq Musa

In order to improve nutritional quality and effective exploitation of plant-based foods, anti-nutritional factors must be removed or reduced. 

However, to achieve that goal, it is necessary to establish processing technique(s) to ensure foods optimal utilisation, said the Director of School of Basic and Remedial Studies (SBRS), Federal University of Lafia (FULafia), Professor Matthew Olaleke Aremu.

Aremu spoke when he delivered his professorial inaugural lecture. 

The inaugural lecture is an opportunity for newly promoted professors to inform their colleagues in the university and the general public about their researches and career and update them on their current and future research directions.

The lecture delivered by Aremu was the fourth in the series of inaugural lectures in FULafia.

Aremu is a professor of industrial chemistry and the title of his inaugural lecture was "Exploiting Underexploited Plant-Based Foods."

Aremu's lecture revolved around investigation on mineral, protein, amino acid, lipid, anti–nutrient compositions of underexploited plant–based foods.

Aremu described food as any substance consumed to provide nutritional support for an organism, adding: "It is usually of plant or animal origin, and contains essential nutrients such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and or minerals." 

He, also, said that foods could be substances assimilated through the help of cells to provide energy, maintain life or stimulate growth. 

He said: "Most foods have their origin in plants. Some foods are obtained directly from plants but even animals that are used as foods sources are raised by feeding them on food derived from plants."

He said that one of the factors responsible for the neglect of plant–based foods was unrecognised nutritional values of the plants. 

"Due to the technological advances and introduction of more additives into food processing to make them attractive, last longer on the shelves, have pleasant flavours and good taste, consumers tend to lose sight of the nutritional values of local foods made from indigenous plants," he said.

Prof. Aremu defined food chemistry as the branch of science that plays a significant role in food processing methods designed to preserve and enhance availability and quality of food. 

He pointed out that food chemistry focuses on the changes in the composition and chemical, physical and functional properties of foods and food products during their different processing stages and storage periods. 

He, however, stated that "it is necessary to establish processing technique(s) to ensure optimal utilisation of some foods, which the study has identified.

He said that his research has investigated different processing "methods for some underexploited plant–based foods such as scarlet runner beans, kersting’s groundnut, pinto bean, red kidney beans, harms, African locust bean and mesquite bean, tigernut, pineapple and processed bambara groundnut."

He added that his study has suggested ways for Nigeria to improve underexploited plants to the world vegetable oil sources.

Aremu said that as the level of global demand for oilseeds and oilseed products, goes up the economic fortunes of Nigeria would grow with an increase in the production of oilseed plants.

He, however, lamented that the number of vegetable oil companies in Nigeria, saying most people in the business of vegetables oil were concerned with trading.

"They are retailers, thus, we have more vegetable oil marketing companies than vegetable oil producing companies. This has increased the price of vegetable oil. Therefore, research must be intensified on the elucidation of the abundant underexploited/neglected plants in Nigeria with a view to revealing their potentials for food and industrial applications."

He said due to an increasing number of outbreaks of foodborne illnesses, widespread of poor environmental hygiene and sanitation, contaminated, mislabeled/adulterated food along each sector of the food supply chain in Nigeria there was need for the establishment of food composition unit, codex alimentarius commission, food standards programme to domiciled in the ministry of health. 

He added that professional bodies such as Institute of Chartered Chemists of Nigeria (ICCON), Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology (NIFST) and Public Analysts of Nigeria (IPAN) should be involved in this initiative.

Prof. Matthew Olaleke Aremu was born over six decades ago to the family of Mr. and Mrs. Ganiyu Iyanda Aremu of Olota compound in Iwo town, Iwo local government area, Osun State, Nigeria.

He obtained Ph.D (Industrial Chemistry) from University of Ado–Ekiti in October 2006.

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The Federal University of Lafia (FULafia) was established in February 2011 by the Federal Government of Nigeria for the public benefit and it is recognized globally. Throughout our great history, FULafia has offered access to a wide range of academic opportunities. Read More