Saturday, 26 November 2011

Diet therapy is the in-thing: Research organisations in Hyderabad promote healthy foods

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Nov 25: City research organisations are now vying with one
another in promoting diet therapies to reduce the burden of
non-communicable diseases and reduce the over dose of medicines. This
follows India’s commitment to the United Nations that it will launch a
nation-wide programme to combat non-communicable diseases from April
next year. Special biscuits, snacks and recipes are being prepared to
gradually wean away people from rice and popularise sorghum, millets,
fruits and vegetables.

On the forefront of the diet therapy campaign are the International
Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, the National
Institute of Nutrition, the World Vegetable Centre and the Directorate
on Sorghum Research. Special walks are being organised and decorated
raths pressed into service in rural and urban areas to promote healthy
diet and thereby fight non-communicable diseases like diabetes,
cardiovascular diseases, stroke and cancer.

Around 60 lakh people die every year in the country due to
non-communicable diseases. Cardiovascular diseases account for
one-fourth of all deaths. With an estimated 50.8 million people, India
has the world's largest population of diabetics, and of all deaths.
According to a WHO report, unhealthy lifestyles and diet caused a loss
of almost $237 billion between 2004 and 2015 in India.

The World Vegetable Centre is pushing for bitter gourd, while the
Directorate of Sorghum has launched a publicity campaign to promote
jowar as the staple diet, replacing rice. It has introduced a new
concept, “Jowar Rath”, which goes around villages and towns
popularizing new jowar recipes.

Icrisat’s Director General Dr William Dar points out that by tapping
into the health promoting properties of dryland crops like sorghum and
millet one can help address this urgent public health issue.

According to researchers, with rising incomes, people tend to eat more
but not necessarily better. Consuming empty calories and more
processed food, the average Indian citizen eats more refined grains
and products that contain  high glycemic index (GI) carbohydrates (not
diabetic friendly), in addition to consuming foods  having high fat
and salt content.

Icrisat is popularising millets, which are rich in dietary fibre and
thus diabetic friendly. It is producing special snacks made with less
oil and based on millets and sorghum. Dr Saikat Datta Mazumdar, senior
scientist at Icrisat, said “we would like to research the possibility
of sorghum or millet-based enriched biscuits for school feeding
programmes”.

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