CANBERRA, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- Australian scientists believe fish sauce could help prevent the development of the deadly disease beriberi in Southeast Asia after studies showed that adding vital nutrients to the staple could be a simple way to improve thiamine intake.
Professor Tim Green from the University of Adelaide's South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute (SAHMRI) said Southeast Asian people commonly suffer from a thiamine - or vitamin B1 - deficiency, which leads to a much higher risk of developing beriberi - especially in children.
He said while his researchers were investigating methods to improve thiamine intake for infants and mothers in Cambodia, they discovered a simple way to introduce the vitamin into the everyday diet - fish sauce.
"Beriberi is most serious in babies because babies are born with little thiamine and deficient mothers have low levels of thiamine in their breastmilk," Green said in a statement on Wednesday.
"The onset of beriberi is rapid and symptoms include a hoarse cry, vomiting, and diarrhoea. If the baby is not given thiamine, they can die within 24 hours."
"So we added thiamine to fish sauce, a condiment that is found in nearly every Cambodian kitchen."
He said the "simple and sustainable" method of adding the vitamin to fish sauce could save countless lives in developing Southeast Asian nations such as Cambodia.
"This research suggests that thiamine-fortified fish sauce has the potential to be a simple, low-cost, and sustainable means of improving dietary thiamine intake and preventing thiamine deficiency in Cambodia."