- Start date: 1 October 2020
- End date: 30 September 2022
- Funder: National Programme for Innovation in Fisheries and Aquaculture (PNIPA) Peru
- Value: $156,924.75 USD
- Partners and collaborators: Community of Cotaparaco, Peru.
- External primary investigator: Dr Nancy Chasquibol Silva, Researcher at the IDIC (Institute of Scientific Research) and coordinator of the Functional Foods Laboratory of the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture at the University of Lima
- Co-investigators: Dr. Alan Javier Hernandez Alvarez
- External co-investigators: Billy Francisco Gonzales García and Rafael Alarcón Rivera, University of Lima
Peru is one of the countries with the greatest biological diversity in both flora and fauna. The Ministry of Rural Development and Irrigation has emphasized that the genetic biodiversity in Peru presents a high degree of diversification.
Peru is one of the most important world centres of genetic resources of plants and animals, and the first in a wide variety of potatoes, chilli peppers, corn, Andean grains, tubers, Andean roots, among others. Moreover, the hydrobiological diversity of the Peruvian sea is immense, and this influences its food and economic importance, due to the massive consumption of these products and the promising potential of aquaculture. Despite all these advantages, Peru in 2019, had a prevalence of malnutrition of 12.2% in children under 5 years of age.
Cognitive development in children under 3 years of age is affected by chronic malnutrition; therefore, children malnutrition is considered a public health problem. Cushuro algae (Nostoc sp) could contribute to reducing children malnutrition. Cushuro, is also known as murmunta, llullucha or llayta, is a bluish-green spherical cyanobacterium with an appearance similar to that of grapes. They have a diameter of between 10 and 25 mm, and they inhabit the Andean foothills at about 3000 m. s. n. m. on average. This geographical location has allowed them to form part of the basic diet of some high Andean areas. Dry cushuro contains ~30% protein of high biological value and a high concentration of iron (83 mg/100 g of dehydrated cushuro). Some studies concluded that Nostoc commune could be an important source of dietary fiber and an adequate food ingredient to improve texture for food formulations.
Additionally, another study evaluated the nutritional effect of cushuro in malnourished children (1 to 3 years) in the district of Amarilis, Huánuco, Peru; enhancing children nutritional status. Thus, the nutritional composition of cushuro makes it an ideal source of bioactive and functional ingredients such as proteins and polysaccharides. From these, a wide variety of functional foods can be designed such as snacks, protein bars, high protein shakes, among others. As an example, protein hydrolysates have a high content of easily digestible and absorbable proteins compared to non-hydrolyzed proteins and are used as supplements for clinical treatments, weight loss and malnutrition.
At the University of Lima, the work team lead by Dr Nancy Chasquibol, in coordination with Dr Alan Javier Hernández Alvarez and Prof Francisco M. Goycoolea from the University of Leeds, School of Food Science and Nutrition, UK, and the community of Cotaparaco, we are developing the project "Study and characterization of cushuro proteins and polysaccharides ('Nostoc commune') from the Cotaparaco-Recuay lagoon, Áncash, for the development of functional foods and contribution to reducing children malnutrition” (PNIPA-PES-SIADE-PP-000277).
This project is co-financed by the National Programme for Innovation in Fisheries and Aquaculture (PNIPA) of the Ministry of Production, and its main objective is to develop functional foods that help fight childhood malnutrition.
External Primary Investigator: Dr Nancy Chasquibol Silva, Researcher at the IDIC (Institute of Scientific Research) and coordinator of the Functional Foods Laboratory of the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture at the University of Lima.
External Co-I: Billy Francisco Gonzales García, University of Lima.
Improve sustainability, food security and rural livelihoods in high Andean areas of Peru, particularly in Cotaparaco.
Promote food development of nutritious and sustainable cushuro food products; thus, raising income and improving farming livelihoods in Andean areas of Peru.
Reduced children malnutrition.
Develop community self-managed projects based on cushuro products that promote health, biodiversity, and a thriving local economy.
Greater implementation of sustainable and diverse nutritious food crops.