A profile of urban adult population in South India has shown that the diet of this group could possibly contribute to the risk of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes.

A study published in a recent issue of the ‘Public Health Nutrition,' a British journal, gathered sufficient evidence to conclude that the diet of the South Indian adult is high in refined cereals, and low in fish, fruits and vegetables, compared to the standards set by the FAO/WHO. While consumption of sugar and sweetened beverages were within the recommended intake when the study was completed in 2005, it has indeed been rising subsequently and is certainly a cause for worry.

“Most of the Indian nutrition studies so far have analysed under nourishment and malnourishment, with a focus on women and children. Now, slowly the focus is shifting to nutrition that has a direct impact on non-communicable diseases,” V. Mohan, of Madras Diabetes Research Foundation and Dr. Mohan's Diabetes Specialities Centre, who is also one of the authors, explains.

There is an urgent need to understand the current dietary profile of the population to identify diet-related risk factors of chronic diseases such as diabetes in order to plan preventive strategies, according to the authors.

“In one of our earlier studies, we found that white rice intake was high. This one shows us that the bulk of it is refined or polished rice. The calorie intake itself is not very high, unlike in the West. Mal-distribution of food groups is the true problem,” he stresses.

For instance, he says, protein intake is abysmally low at just over 12 per cent. Proteins are said to be essential components of the body, forming the structure of the muscles, tissues, organs and are also important as regulators of function as enzymes and hormones.

Carbohydrate component is the highest at about 64 per cent. There has been a shift from the so-called coarse and higher fibre grains to more refined grains like rice and wheat. Fruits and vegetables consumed comprise less than 50 per cent of the WHO recommendation of 400 gm.

One of the Centre's own studies showed that a higher intake of fruits and vegetables explained a protective effect against cardio vascular disease risk factors.

“It is the unbalanced diet that is worrisome. The lack of proteins, combined with low fruit and vegetable intake and rising consumption of sugared beverages and now, fat (including pizzas, burgers and other fast food) increase the population's risk for cardio vascular disease and diabetes,” Dr. Mohan added.

Keywords: diabetesnutrition

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