By Syed Akbar
A majority of Indians are malnourished. Even those who consume sufficient
quantity of food suffer from malnutrition because they don not get well-
balanced food. Nationwide surveys by Central government agencies over the
years reveal that Indians, including those living in urban areas, suffer from
common nutrition problems like protein energy malnutrition and
micronutrient deficiencies (vitamin A, iron, iodine and vitamin B-complex).
Keeping this in view, the Hyderabad-based National Institute of Nutrition has
come out with a Nutrition Manual containing dietary guidelines for Indians,
particularly adolescent girls and pregnant women. The guidelines give a
broad perspective on the present nutritional scenario in the country, besides
suggesting the type of food one should take for healthy, long and happy life.
The nutrition quota differs from person to person depending on the amount
and type of work he or she undertakes. It also varies depending on age and
The nutrition guidelines assume importance in the backdrop of the poor
health scenario in several parts of the country. About one-third of infants
born are low in weight i.e. less than 2.5 kgs. This is as against less than 10
per cent of low birth weights recorded in developed countries including small
nations like Israel. It was also noticed that two per cent of nursery school
children in the country suffer from severe and florid forms of protein energy
malnutrition leading to health problems like Kwashiorkor and marasmus.
Health surveys reveal that children below five years suffer from sub-clinical
under-nutrition resulting in low weight for age. This is less than 75 per cent
of median weight for age as fixed by the National Centre for Health
Statistics. About 65 per cent of these children are stunted (low height for
age). Under-nutrition if continued throughout the growing phase of
childhood leads to short stature in adults. Half of the adults in the country
have body mass index below 18.5, which in other words means chronic
The dietary goals as envisaged by the NIN include maintenance of a state of
positive health and optimal performance in populations at large, ensuring
adequate nutritional status for pregnant women and lactating mothers,
improving birth weights and promoting growth of infants, children and
adolescents to achieve their full genetic potential and preventing chronic diet-
The dietary guidelines are: consuming nutritionally adequate diet through a
wise choice from a variety of foods; additional food and extra care during
pregnancy and lactation; food supplements for infants by four to six months;
consumption of green leafy vegetables, other vegetables and fruits in large
quantities; moderate use of oils, sugar and salt; avoidance of processed and
ready-to-eat foods; and adequate amounts of water.
According to NIN, a balanced diet should provide around 60 to 70 per cent of
total calories from carbohydrates, preferably starch, about 10-12 per cent
from proteins and 20-25 per cent from fat.
Nutrient dense low fat foods are recommended for old people for being
physically active and healthy. Nutritionally adequate diet with extra food for
child bearing/rearing women for maintenance of health productivity and
prevention of diet-related disease and to support pregnancy/lactation.
Body-building and protective foods are recommended for adolescents for
growth spurt, maturation and bone development. For children's growth,
development and to fight infections, energy, body-building and protective
food (milk, vegetables and fruits) are recommended. And for infants, breast
milk and energy rich foods (fats and sugar) are needed for growth and
The balanced diet recommended for an adult man (sedentary) per day is: 20
grams of oil/fats; 25 grams of sugar, 300 grams of milk and milk products, 60
grams of pulses (for vegetarians), 30 grams of pulses, egg/meat/chicken/fish
(for non vegetarians), 400 grams of vegetables, 100 grams of fruits and 420
grams of cereals and millets. Elderly people may reduce 90 grams of cereals
and millets and add an extra serving of fruit.
In case of women, 300 grams of vegetables, 300 grams of cereals and millets
and 20 grams of sugar, besides the other dosage recommended for men.
Half of the people suffer from nutritional anaemia and this is more
pronounced in women as 70 to 90 per cent of them are found to be anaemic.
Health statistics indicate that anaemia caused due to malnutrition kills over a
lakh pregnant women. Coming to iodine deficiency, about 300 million people
live in areas where iodine is in short supply. Iodine deficiency leads to
problems like goitre, neonatal hypothyroidism, mental retardation, delayed
motor development, stunting, deaf-mutism and neuromuscular disorders.
Around one lakh still-birth and neonatal deaths occur every year because of
deficiency of iodine in mothers.
Studies by the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau show that the daily
intake of most foods, except cereals and millets (470 grams) is much below
the recommended dietary allowances. The diets provide negligible amounts
of protective foods like pulses (29 grams) and vegetables.
Consumption of green leafy vegetables and other vegetables (70-80 grams),
which are rich sources of micronutrients like beta-carotene, folate, calcium,
riboflavin and iron, is woefully inadequate. Intake of visible fat is less than
60 per cent of the RDA.
"The proportion of households with energy inadequacy is 48 per cent while
that with protein inadequacy is 20 per cent. Thus, in the cereal/millet-based
Indian dietaries, the primary bottleneck is energy and not protein, as was
earlier believed. This dietary energy gap can be easily overcome by
increasing the quantities of habitually eaten foods by the poor," the study
Word Of The Day - Improve Your Knowledge
Word of the Day
|Definition:||Equipment, such as clothing, tools, or instruments, used for a specific purpose or task.|
Quote of the Day
Every traveler has a home of his own, and he learns to appreciate it the more from his wandering.