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Nutritional challenge in India: Lack of dietary diversity & monotonous diet
Wednesday, 09 September, 2020, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Nandita Vijay, Bengaluru
Lack of dietary diversity and sticking to a monotonous diet also leads to nutritional challenges in India. Improving maternal health will reflect in the child’s nutritional status and will also ensure the growing child’s healthy cognitive and psychosocial development.

Improving maternal health, preventing anaemia in women of reproductive age will prevent maternal deaths and infant mortality. Hence even the theme for the National Nutrition Month in September in India is Poshan Maa, which is the first 1,000 days. This vulnerable population was chosen to emphasise the importance of nutrition from the time of preconception up to 2 years, which is 1,000 days, according to Sreemathy Venkatraman, clinical dietician & nutritionist, Brains Hospital, Bengaluru.

“Many nutritional challenges are faced by our country. However, India has progressed from being a food-deficit to a food-surplus country in agricultural production. But the Global Hunger Index Report (GHI) in 2019 has placed India at 102 Rank out of 117 countries. GHI is a peer reviewed annual report to measure and track hunger at the global, regional and country levels. This annual report is to trigger action at the policy level to reduce hunger around the world. With a score of 30.3 in GHI India suffers from a hunger level that is serious,” she noted.

The NFHS-4 (National Family Health Survey) 2015-16, points out that anaemia is a major problem that is widely prevalent among our population. The condition manifested in124 million children of 6-59 months, 134 million of 134 million, 115 million of 10-19 yrs. Adolescent boys and girls, 30 million of pregnant women, 27 million of lactating mothers and 17 million of 20-24 yrs - women of reproductive age.

Anemia Mukt Bharat (AMB) has been launched by the government to tackle this population, which has serious consequences leading to maternal and infant mortality. Its economic consequences are reducing working capacity. Now AMB aims to reduce anaemia prevalence by a 6x6x6 strategy with key interventions, co-ordination among ministries and implementation and monitoring through technology and Iron and Folic Acid (IFA) supplementation and fortified foods distribution through ICDS and PDS schemes.

Hidden Hunger too is a deficiency of one or more micronutrients like iron, folic acid, Zinc, Vitamin A, Vitamin D and Vitamin B12 in the daily diet which leads to under nutrition and micro nutrient deficiencies such as anaemia, fatigue, night blindness, low levels of immunity and low levels of cognition.

Quoting the UNICEF Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey, she said, “Adolescents 10-19 years, suffer from hidden hunger due to poor consumption of healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, eggs, dairy and greens. Lack of dietary diversity and sticking to a monotonous diet also leads to these conditions which can be prevented by awareness through social media and education initiatives in schools and ban on sale of junk food inside campuses.

At least 1/3rd of the world’s stunted children are in India and 4/10 children under 5 are stunted in height for age and 21% are wasted with low weight for age. India faces a triple burden of malnutrition as childhood obesity is on the rise as malnutrition and under nutrition co-exists with overweight. “Lack of access to nutritious food, severe diarrhoea due to poor sanitation and hygiene, skipping immunisation schedules and increasing inaccessibility to nutritious food has steadily increased malnutrition,” said Venkatraman.

“A balanced diet, government schemes like ICDS and mid-day meal schemes with better monitoring and the 6x6x6 strategy of the government initiative to reach the vulnerable population has to be more effective to give rise to better outcomes in the coming years,” noted the Brains Hospital clinical dietician & nutritionist.
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