Are the dietary changes taking place in the country resulting in double burden of both under and over nutrition despite improved economic conditions in the past 20 years? This issue is the gist of a study conducted by the International Crops Research Institute for Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).
The study was conducted in 487 households in eight villages in three States – Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.
In Telangana, the study was conducted at Aurepalle and Dokur in Mahabubnagar district while in AP, it was done at Pamidipadu and JC Agraharam in Prakasam district. The surveys show that there is no improvement in the diversity of diets of rural men, women, boys and girls. Preliminary findings revealed that starchy staples, such as rice in Telangana and wheat in Maharashtra form a major portion of diets. However, micro-nutrients intake is below the recommended level.
Under-nutrition in women was registered at 50 per cent followed by underweight - 18 per cent - and incidence of overweight - seven per cent at Kanzara, Shirapur, Kinkhed and Kalman villages in Maharahtra, where the study was conducted. People consuming calorie-dense food like wheat in Maharashtra and rice in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh was stated to be the reason for these types of health issues.
The surveys showed children had greater diet diversity. “A significant finding was that boys generally had greater diet diversity than girls, indicating preferential feeding in some areas, although this was not the case across the board,” Dr. R. Padmaja, Scientist - Gender Research, ICRISAT, told The Hindu .
Despite moderate to high diversity in diets, the prevalence of stunting (low height for age) in children was high in some Maharashtra villages.
“This could be due to insufficient food intake or the result of disease, especially water-borne infections. This has raised an important question as to the impact of sanitation on nutrition, and the absorption of nutrients,” said Dr. Padmaja.
She said that people used to consume sorghum and pearl millet, the poor man’s diet with more nutritional value, before the introduction of subsidised rice and wheat.
“The introduction of millets through PDS will certainly improve health and nutritional conditions of people,” she said.