Health through nutrition for all, Health News, ET HealthWorld

by François Scheffler

The first global study for a generation into whether people are getting the vitamins and minerals they need for proper physical and mental health has found alarming deficiencies worldwide. The report, published in the Lancet Medical Journal, revealed a widespread lack of micronutrient consumption and echoed the findings of the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) that more than 70% of the Indian population are not eating the recommended daily amounts.

The consequences of micronutrient deficiency are not always visible, but this ‘hidden hunger’ affects development during childhood and can cause a lifelong loss of productivity and potential. It starts even before we are born; Good maternal nutrition leads to healthier babies with a reduced likelihood of premature birth and fewer congenital disorders. Poor nutrition and health can result in poor academic performance and limit our opportunities to earn later in life. It also directly links to our resilience to illness, including viral respiratory infections. Good nutrition sets the foundation for a healthy and prosperous life, and ultimately benefits society as a whole.

The hidden deficit in India’s plenty
Tremendous government efforts have lifted millions of people across India out of hunger – in fact we risk overconsumption in many areas – yet, although there has been an upswing in the accessibility of food across the country, not all home-cooked meals are wholesome in terms of their nutritional value. Rice, the staple food for most families, offers very little nutrition besides its calorific value as starch.

Getting the right nutrition is becoming increasingly challenging too as fast-paced lifestyles push healthy eating down our priorities. The nutritional health of young Indians today is shaped by the limited time to prioritize our well-being and the need for convenience. There are an estimated 300 million women and 100 million children under 5 in India currently suffering from at least one major deficiency, and this spans all states and all socio-economic groups.

A shift to thinking proactively
Covid-19 has transformed how we think about our health, perhaps forever. As we have become more health conscious and adopted new behaviours, from masks, handwashing and vaccines to diets, self-care and exercise, we’ve all been trying to prevent illness from happening in the first place rather than relying on a cure. We are becoming more aware that good health requires a continuous proactive effort, not merely responding when we start to feel unwell.

‘Pill fatigue’ however is a trend. When it comes to supplements, many of us are looking for alternative ways to take them. This has led to the creation of new formats from companies like DSM, including gummies, shots and stick packs, that fit our modern, day-to-day approach to staying healthy. It’s also shaken up the way we think about what we eat, with food and drink with an immunity claim becoming increasingly popular globally. The way we think about, and approach, health has changed.

Food fortification for better health
Food holds such a prominent cultural value across India that it is the key to bridging the micronutrient gap. Fortifying food is a scientifically proven method that has been used in parts of the world for more than 100 years and nutrition-focused companies like DSM are leveraging the latest science to create healthier lives with evidence-informed intervention that strives to prevent micronutrient deficiency at scale. .

The government of India is cognizant of the potential and the likes of the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme, the Mid-Day Meal Program, the National Iron Plus Initiative (NIPI), and the National Iodine Deficiency Disorders Control Program (NIDDCP) are transformative in targeting specific groups in society.

Public perception that food fortification is solely for the most vulnerable, however, is misplaced. Whether adding iron to a popular cereal or calcium to mass-market flour brands, food fortification is not only accepted in many parts of the world but considered to have marketable value in appealing to health-conscious consumers.

As we become increasingly aware that micronutrient deficiencies affect almost everyone in some way, and that being proactive about our health is crucial, so we hope that the benefits of food fortification and micronutrient supplementation become a recognized part of everyday healthy eating for everyone in India.

François Scheffler, Regional Vice President – Human Nutrition and Care – Asia Pacific & President, DSM Asia Pacific

(DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and ETHealthworld does not necessarily subscribe to it. shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person / organization directly or indirectly.)


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