Nutrition week tries to erase unhealthy notions

 | Sep 6, 2015, 03.08 PM IST

Nagpur: Malnourishment is a much misunderstood term in India, bringing up images of frail and emaciated children. However, several seemingly healthy and even obese people in the country can be easily termed malnourished and found to have nutritional deficiencies.

Throughout the national nutrition week observed in the first week of September, experts from the city worked towards dispelling myths about nutrition. The theme of the week this year declared by government of India is 'Better Nutrition: Key to Development'.

"Like the root word suggests, any wrong form of nutrition is malnutrition. In rural areas, we find that the biggest mistake people make is not eating all food groups, especially proteins and micronutrients that are locally available. In urban communities, it is usually the accumulation of anticalories by eating a lot of fried and packaged food rich in transfat and salt," explained dietitian Minal Gujarathi.

Around 30-40% of Indian children are malnourished, either because of under nutrition, deficiency or excessive nutrition, informed senior nutritionist and convener of Nutritional Society of India's Nagpur chapter AN Radha. "Absence of adequate and balanced nutrition can cause several lifestyle diseases. The biggest problem with our selection of food today is that it has become market oriented rather than nutrition oriented. We let our taste buds make food choices," she added.

President of city chapter of Indian Dietetic Association Rita Bhargava informed that India ranks fifth in the world in terms prevalence of obesity by percentage as per a 2013 study by World Health Organisation (WHO). The same report also mentions that every fifth Indian is obese.

Malnutrition is directly or indirectly responsible for 60% of all child deaths in India, added Rekha Sharma, past president of NSI Nagpur. "It is not just the physical health of a person that is affected by the food one eats but also mental health. Cognitive development, productivity and academic performance in children is affected due to nutritional deficiencies," she said.

"Along with a balanced diet, right proportion of nutrition is also important. Our traditional diet has less fruit and vegetables, more carbohydrates and fats, which is not right. It is advisable to cut down the dependence on packaged food," said Bhargava. She advised that soft drinks and chips can be replaced with coconut water, buttermilk, fruits and nuts for snacking.

Radha feels that it is very important to remove ignorant notions among people. "Childhood obesity seems nice to Indians as they think of it as 'cute' and a sign of prosperity. Parents need to understand that it is only a sign of many illnesses coming ahead. Teenagers and women need to stop trying to become thin and learn more about being healthy," she said.