Dr. Hemalatha R MBBS; MD; FNAMS; FIUNS; FTAS
Nutrition is one of the most important environmental factors that determines the risk and outcome of many communicable and non- communicable diseases. Unhealthy dietary habit is the leading risk factor of disease burden contributing to more than half of the DALYS due to coronary heart disease, hypertension and diabetes in India. A healthy diet needs to include nearly 500g of vegetables and fruits accounting for at least 8% of the daily calorie intake as per the “my plate for the day” (NIN) recommendation. More than 80% of Indians do not meet this recommendation. Our data shows that we consume excess amounts of cereals and not enough pulses, legumes, fruits, vegetables, nuts and milk. The effect of poor nutrition is more pronounced when it occurs during foetal life and infancy.
NIN’s multi-disciplinary scientific team, with a dedicated technical team and ever- supportive administrative team, works relentlessly to address the nutrition and health challenges we are facing today. We provide evidence-based inputs on food and nutrient consumption patterns; trends in the nutrition status of the population across age and physiological groups, including maternal and child nutrition. We also work on NCD biomarkers, Environmental pollution/toxins that affect health, Drug nutrient interaction, and immune response. Importantly, apart from policy makers and regulatory bodies, our work on micro and macronutrient values of various foods in India is widely used by researchers, academicians and students. Our data has been the basis for most nutrition programs in the country, in addition to fortification, regulatory issues on foods with toxins and edible oils regulation. We develop “Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA)”, “Dietary Guidelines for Indians”; and specific recommendations for people with special conditions (Diabetes, Heart Diseases, Nutrition and Infection and for Pregnant and lactating women).
In the last two years, NIN has successfully established Nutrition Surveillance System (NSS) in 6 states through the Anganwadi centers of the ICDS, which is an integrated approach to assess population nutrition and the ICDS program on a real-time basis. NIN has also launched studies in the areas of anaemia and stunting. The study on stunting is a multi- country study, which explores core drivers of stunting among children: Focussing on the gut microbiome, epigenetics, host-environment nexus including educational, behavioural, and food-based interventions, at the community level.
The prevention and reduction of communicable and non-communicable chronic diseases are intricately linked to various forms of malnutrition. Economically, the cost of poor nutrition is high due to premature deaths and strained health systems, which in turn impede economic progress. Good nutrition is a resource that surpasses the individual and influences the family, and the benefits are felt at the community level.