New study from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization and Mayo Clinic sets the stage for future nutritional research throughout the world

October 25, 2001

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- A new study, which found that women in a population center of western Africa need more energy than men based on their work burden, sets the stage for development of a model to research nutritional needs of women throughout the world. Mayo Clinic participated in the study led by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). The study appears in the Oct. 26 issue of Science.

The study focuses on the work burden of women on the Ivory Coast (Côte d'Ivoire) in Africa. The research determined how work energy is distributed in this population during a part of the agricultural year.

The study found that women performed all the domestic tasks as well as working in agriculture; men worked only in agriculture. As a result, during the season studied, the women worked two to three hours more per day than men and so needed 30 percent more energy than had been thought previously.

Researchers observed the work practices of 1,787 women and 1,565 men over a seven-day period in the Northern Savane, West Forest, and East Forest regions of Côte d'Ivoire, which is among the world's largest producers and exporters of coffee, cocoa beans and palm oil.

The study encompassed a full range of agricultural activities, including hunting, crop tending, harvesting, food gathering, tree felling, sowing, planting and land clearing.

"This study will provide an ongoing model to research nutritional needs of people in other countries, particularly in the Third World," says James Levine, M.D., a Mayo Clinic endocrinologist.

"With research such as this, we hope to have a better understanding of the nutrition needs of people in specific regions of the world, paving the way to alter economic and nutritional support," says Barbara Burlingame, Ph.D., senior nutrition officer in FAO's Food and Nutrition Division.

"Results such as these assist in determining the energy requirements of women and are used in reviews such as the Joint FAO/WHO/UNU Expert Consultation on Energy in Human Nutrition which is presently meeting in Rome," says Robert Weisell, Ph.D., FAO nutrition officer.

FAO estimates that 815 million individuals throughout the world experience inadequate nutrition and an insufficient food supply.
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FAO is one of the largest specialized agencies in the United Nations system and the lead agency for nutrition, agriculture, forestry, fisheries and rural development. An intergovernmental organization, the agency has 179 member countries plus one member organization, the European Community.

The United Nations is central to global efforts to solve problems that challenge humanity. FAO was founded in 1945 with a mandate to raise levels of nutrition and standards of living, to improve agricultural productivity and to better the condition of rural populations.

The article, "The Work Burden of Women" will be available at http://www.sciencemag.org on Friday, Oct. 26, 2001 or by calling 202-326-6440.

For further information and news releases from FAO, please visit the FAO Web site at http://www.fao.org.

Mayo Clinic

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