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Updated: November 10, 2011 15:43 IST

Nutrition a huge challenge in India: Popkin

Aarti Dhar
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In this Aug. 25, 2007 file photo School children participating in the Active Morning Walk campaign to prevent Obesity, Diabetes and Heart Disease orgnised by Pankh at Rose Garden to Siri Fort in New Delhi. Photo: Anu Pushkarna.
The Hindu In this Aug. 25, 2007 file photo School children participating in the Active Morning Walk campaign to prevent Obesity, Diabetes and Heart Disease orgnised by Pankh at Rose Garden to Siri Fort in New Delhi. Photo: Anu Pushkarna.

What took the United States of America 50 years in terms of rise in the cases of diabetes and obesity, India will achieve in the coming 10 years, according to world-renowned nutritionist B.M Popkin. Thanks to the modernisation of food that has introduced Indian children to noodles, chips and cokes.

“The US took five decades because we had no television and children still played in parks unlike here now where children are glued to television, computers and playgrounds are vanishing from schools and public recreational facilities are non-existent,’’ he told reporters during an Indo-US Advanced Training Seminar on Nutrition Epidemiology.

From a vegetable and pulse consuming vegetarian society before the World War-II to a more `westernised eating habit’ now which is increasing obesity, and it all started with the British coming to India. Except for the rich Brahmins who ate well, Indians survived on just basic diet and occasionally dairy products but the past 20 years have seen unhealthy food coming into the country from all over the world.

Massive economic and social transition that India is undergoing is creating problems in the health and nutrition sector in the country with lifestyle diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular ailments showing an upward trend. “Nutrition, obesity and under-nourishment are more than just about food. It is also about the way people move, what they eat and drink.’’

Double burden

Pointing towards the double burden of both underweight and overweight children in India, Dr K.Srinath Reddy, president of the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) called for a multi-sectoral approach to deal with the issue of nutrition and public health. “Unfortunately, nutrition sector is an orphan in this country with many jurisdictionally claimed by many but owned by none,’’ he said while suggesting setting up of an expert body to look into the issue of nutrition holistically. He said nutrition – and not alone diet – should be integrated in the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) and the Mid Day Meal (MDM) scheme to be extended to adolescent girls to ensure they are healthy mothers and bear healthy children.

“Importantly, the government must also take policy measures in terms of which crops to be promoted based on nutrition values, consumption healthy edible oils and fruits and vegetables. There is also a need to curtail the use of trans-fats and sugar through food products by possibly imposing fat tax,’’ Dr Reddy said adding that research in the field of nutrition was the need of the day.

There is a rapid economic growth without steep decline in poverty rates and despite adequate food availability there been reduction in food/energy intake. In spite of sustained interventions to prevent and combat child under-nutrition there has not been substantial reduction in child under-nutrition rates which suggests an urgent need to review the linkages between economic growth, poverty, dietary intake and nutritional status, Prema Ramachandran of the Nutrition Foundation of India said.

Many companies are allowed to rake in huge profits by processing basic food and marketing at inflated prices which with huge advertisement spending, make people squander their hard earned money. Result is that children are fed these in homeopathic doses, aggravating malnutrition.

from:  yogindra
Posted on: Nov 11, 2011 at 10:21 IST

The article is timely. Yet, what caught my eye was the comment about "rich brahmins". I agree with Tamilselvan: that is extremely biased and unnecessary. In any society, the rich always have the best food. By the statement the author implies that all Brahmins were rich or all those who ate well were Brahmins.We know both statements are inaccurate by any measure.What are the facts of the matter that Arti Dhar is trying to tell us?

from:  K.Venkat
Posted on: Nov 10, 2011 at 23:36 IST

I am intrigued by the author's remark "only rich Brahmin's ate well".Can she elaborate on that? And, her sources ?

from:  Lakshmi Krishnan
Posted on: Nov 10, 2011 at 23:24 IST

'Except for Brahmins who ate well...". What does the author mean by this . It is pure bias. If this was true evey Brahmin must have diabetes!. Please walk more and don't compare with USA. Look at other countries such as Italy, Nigeria and see why they have low diabetes.

from:  Tamilselvan
Posted on: Nov 10, 2011 at 18:05 IST

I surely expected a even more detailed report on this issue. But the above article still highlights the problems and their causes ailing the nutrition factor in India.Food habits play a major role in this, the government now and then declare bumper crops and claim that the godowns are full and overflowing, but news reports show children starving, under-nourished and people struggling for food. The gap between these two is turning out to be a black-box where everything is a mystery. The need of the hour is transparency in schemes especially the ones related to food, nutrition and health.

from:  bharath
Posted on: Nov 10, 2011 at 11:11 IST
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