Wednesday, 19 December 2012

India has now taken up its fight against "hidden hunger". For the first time ever, Indian scientists will look into the major health problems created by “hidden hunger” or deficiency in micronutrients

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: India has now taken up its fight against "hidden
hunger". For the first time ever, Indian scientists will look into the
major health problems created by “hidden hunger” or deficiency in

A vast majority of people in the country suffer from health issues
related to lack of sufficient quantity of micronutrients in their
daily food. Deficiency in micronutrients is responsible for
complications that may reduce physical output and mental agility.

Six major scientific research bodies in India have joined hands for a
critical review to unravel the medical and health mystery of hidden
hunger and the long-term health impact on individuals suffering from
deficiency in micronutrients. The mega exercise involves the Indian
Council of Medical Research, the Department of Biotechnology, the
Department of Science and Technology, the Indian Council of
Agricultural Research, the Defence Research and Development
Organisation and the Indian National Science Academy.

“Several micronutrient deficiencies have been identified in India,
with varying degrees of severity. Micronutrient deficiency is referred
to as the hidden hunger since it is not an obvious killer or crippler,
but extracts heavy human and economic cost. Micronutrient deficiencies
are complex in their origins,” points out senior scientist Dr GS Toteja.

The health issues involved are anaemia, bone health and osteoporosis,
non-communicable diseases, lifecycle approaches, maternal nutrition
and adverse birth outcomes like low birth weight. Micronutrients like
iron, vitamin B12, other B vitamins, vitamin D, calcium, magnesium,
chromium and zinc are important for healthy and disease-free living.

The new research exercise will take systematic reviews of the
magnitude of the problem with relation to these micronutrients for
valuable insights into potential strategies. Based on the outcome of
the research studies, the Union Health Ministry will initiate
approaches like supplementation programs, fortification of salt,
cereals and oil, bio-fortification and food-food fortification (diet
diversification), and enhanced agricultural production of healthy
pulses and millets through soil and agricultural science.

Research studies by the city-based National Nutrition Monitoring
Bureau reveal that cereal-pulse based Indian diets are qualitatively
deficient in micronutrients particularly iron, calcium, vitamin A,
riboflavin and folic acid. About two-thirds of preschool children
consume less than 50 per cent of the recommended daily allowance or
iron, vitamin A and riboflavin.

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