Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Nutrition in Bolivia

Aptapi in El Alto
Aptapi is a common occurance across Bolivia, meaning "bring your own". Aptapi is provided when the community gets together to celebrate a special occasion. Dishes are offered by each family, usually consisting of traditional food from their local area, for instance on Lake Titicaca we enjoyed fresh trout and Ispi, while in El Alto families offered mainly root vegetables.    Aptapi is a way of showing social cohesion and solidarity; people give what they can and give willingly for the community.

Food in Bolivia carries national and community identity, and is an important part of the culture.  However, many of the foods available and dietary habits associated with them, can have implications for peoples´ health.

Hidden Hunger

One of the issues facing communities in Bolivia is “hidden hunger”; where individuals eat sufficient food to suppress their hunger, but  the foods they eat do not provide them with the vital vitamins and minerals they need to stay healthy. There are often no visible symptoms, which can lead to poor health and medical problems, such as anaemia and diabetes.


With thousands of species grown across the country, potatoes are a cheap staple for many Bolivian families. This often results in meals being overloaded with carbohydrate, and lacking protein, vitamin A, zinc and Iron, which are obtained from other vegetables. The absence of these vitamins and minerals increases the chance of infection, and can lead to a lack of red blood cells in their body, which are essential in carrying oxygen to their brain and muscles. These micronutrients are key for children as it helps their cognitive and motor development. Statistics show that 30% of Bolivian children do not grow to their full height due to poor diet.


With 60% of the human body being made up of water, it is vital in maintaining healthy.  In Bolivia, fizzy drinks are readily available and often drunk in place of water.  Many of the children have poor dental hygiene due to their consumption of fizzy drinks. Water is important for the body as it gives energy, boosts the immune system and promotes weight loss. Water is essential in a child's development and health.

Government attention

In the United Kingdom, the Government puts a lot of money and resources into healthy eating, keeping fit, and looking after ourselves. There are campaigns such as 'Change4life' and 'Five a day', which aim to make a healthy lifestyle accessible and enjoyable.  In Bolivia, there are limited promotional campaigns about this issue.  This contributes towards a lack of understanding of  health and nutrition. 


Due to the location of La Paz, there are limited means of getting produce such as fish in to the city. Fish is a great way of getting protein, especially omega 3, into the body. As a landlocked country, only places located close to Lake Titicaca, such as Copacabana and Isla de la Sol, get the benefits of fresh fish.

Nutrition is important in leading a healthy lifestyle. For this reason, we are working with children in El Alto on the theme of health, food and nutrition.   Through doing so, we hope to encourage children to make informed choices about their diet, and to work towards a healthy lifestyle.  

Written by Hannah Oates and Rebecca Soundy
Edited by Sarah Cassidy

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