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Updated: February 19, 2013 12:11 IST

Hitting where it hurts the most

Tanu Kulkarni
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Hard-pressed families say compromising on diet is their only option

Skyrocketing prices are having a direct bearing on the nutrition of several low and middle income households. When The Hindu spoke to some people from these families, it was observed that most had very little protein and micronutrients on their plates.

Puttamma, a domestic help living in Sunkadakatte, said the dizzying prices have changed the quantity and quality of food her six-member family consumes. She has reduced the quantity of almost all food items marginally but has drastically cut meat, vegetable, pulses and egg consumption. The monthly income of this household is Rs. 10,000.

“I have two grandchildren and I used to give them two glasses of milk a day till last month. Today, I give them a quarter glass mixed with half a glass of water. That is all I can afford,” she said.

What Rangaswamy (41), an autorickshaw driver, has to say is not very different. Out of his monthly earnings of around Rs. 12,000, he can’t spare more than Rs. 3,000 on food on his family of three as he has other commitments. “Over the past few months, the prices of all commodities have increased, but our incomes have remained the same. So we have no choice but to cut down on items such as cereals, pulses, milk, eggs and vegetables,” he said.

Immune system hit

Nutritionists caution that a diet low in protein can affect the immune system, leading to muscle loss and malnutrition in children.

Manjari Chandra, chief consultant of Nutritionist Republic, said: “Protein quality is low in a vegetarian diet, and if milk, curds and eggs are wiped out from [it], protein consumption drops drastically.”

On the importance of proteins in diet, Priyanka Rohatgi, president, Bangalore Chapter of the Indian Dietetic Association, said that each individual requires at least 1 gram per kg of body weight of protein every day. “Cutting down protein is a bad option at all ages. Proteins are essential for maintaining the wear and tear of the body cells,” she said.

She also pointed out that protein is a must for rigorous physical activity. Eating 30-40 grams of protein triggers a 25 per cent spike in energy and increase fat metabolism by 32 per cent lasting four hours.

Dr. Chandra said that low income families have zero intake of micronutrients. “Fruits and vegetables are not even in their diet. Malnourishment, Vitamin A and Vitamin B deficiency are common among them. Apart from that, a large number of women suffer from anaemia because of reduced iron intake.”

PDS limitations

Suggesting steps to tackle the effects of price rise on nutrition, she said that there was a need for middle class families to prioritise and ensure adequate intake of proteins, carbohydrates, minerals and fat. But, she said, low income groups have financial limitations. “The government has to do something for these families. The Public Distribution System in the State provides only rice, kerosene, sugar. No food commodity that has proteins is supplied through the PDS,” she pointed out.

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