The study areas of the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad.
He who has health has hope, and he who has hope has everything
— Arabian proverb.
All of us are concerned with our body and physical health. A proper diet is vital in maintaining sound health. Medicines are no substitute for a proper diet. In many cases, a patient who takes the right medicines but neglects his diet is, perhaps, wasting the skills of the physician.
The word nutrition brings to our mind the word dietetics also. The two are the two sides of the same coin; but they are not the same. Nutrition is the study of food at work in our bodies. It speaks of our source of energy. Nutrients for life include carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fibre, vitamins, minerals and, of course, water as the solvent. Dietetics on the other hand is the science of applying nutritional principles to the planning and preparation of foods, and regulation of the diet in relation to both health and disease.
There are numerous areas of nutrition, which have to be subjected to studies and research. The premier institute in this endeavour in our country is the NIN: National Institute of Nutrition, Jamai-Osmania PO, Hyderabad – 500 007; Website: www.icmr.nic.in/pinstitute/nin.htm. This functions under the aegis of the Indian Council of Medical Research.
This prestigious institute aims primarily at optimal nutrition for vulnerable segments of our population, such as women of reproductive age, children, adolescent girls, and the elderly. It works for achieving the national nutrition goals set by the Union government. These goals include:
Enabling food and nutrition security conducive to good health, growth and development.
Enhancing productivity through research, for achieving national goals.
The institute was founded in 1918 at the Pasteur Institute, Coonoor. By 1925, this blossomed into a “Deficiency Disease Enquiry.” In 1928, it became the Nutrition Research Laboratories. It moved to Hyderabad in 1958. In 1969, it assumed its present name. In the 1970s, three other units also started functioning:
Food and Drug Toxicology Research Centre
National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau
National Centre for Laboratory Animal Sciences
Research in NIN embraces practically the entire area of food and nutrition. However, there is some emphasis on areas such as protein energy malnutrition. Owing to its rich contribution to this specialty, the institute has gained international recognition. Studies in NIN often emphasises problem-oriented research, aiming at finding practical solutions to nutrition problems, ensuring that the solutions can be applied to our society. A point that stands out in NIN studies is the integration of research activities among the laboratory, the clinic, and the community.
The rich infrastructure available offers fine opportunity to research scholars for studies in the cutting-edge areas of nutrition. Facilities in the Niloufer Hospital for Women and Children, the Government Maternity Hospital and Osmania General Hospital are open for NIN students for their research in clinical nutrition.
The institute library is considered one of the best science libraries in our country. The “Nutrition Museum” of the institute is an important teaching tool.
The broad objectives of the institute encompass the following:
Identifying various dietary and nutrition problems among different segments of our population.
Monitoring continuously the diet and nutrition situation of the country.
Evolving effective methods for preventing and managing nutritional problems.
Conducting operational research connected with planning and implementation of national nutrition programmes.
Integrating nutrition research with other health programmes of the government.
Developing human resource in nutrition.
Disseminating nutrition information.
Advising governments and other organisations on issues relating to nutrition.
Areas of thrust
The thrust areas of research at NIN are the following:
Basic research: food chemistry, nutritional biochemistry, endocrinology, lipid chemistry, ocular biochemistry, biophysics, work physiology, molecular biology and stem cell research.
Clinical research: maternal and child nutrition, bone health, diet and cancer, diet and diabetes, infection and immunity, and studies based on pathology and microbiology.
Community-based operational research: nutrition monitoring and surveillance, food and nutrient intakes, infant and child feeding practices, macro and micronutrient malnutrition, behavioural sciences, sports nutrition, biostatistics and policy research.
Human resource development: conducting postgraduate and certificate programmes in areas of applied nutrition and need-based ad hoc training for various target groups. Extension and education activities in nutrition and health.
There are numerous achievements for this institute. It could explode the ‘protein myth’ and establish that the calorie gap as a major bottleneck in protein energy malnutrition. A significant achievement is the successful determination of the nutritive value of more than 650 items of Indian food. The institute established RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowances) for age, sex, physiological and occupational groups in our country. It also generated data on diet and nutritional status of populations at different time points; this formed the basis for development of nutrition policies and intervention programmes.
NIN stands recognised for D.Sc. and Ph.D. programmes by several universities. It is a WHO-collaborating centre for nutrition in health development. Further, it serves as the secretariat for the WHO South East Asia Nutrition Research-cum-Action Network. This is the best centre for research scholars in the area of nutrition and related studies in our country.