According to the latest Global Burden of Disease study, malnutrition and poor diet are the top two causes of death and disability in India. These dietary risks pose a higher threat than tobacco not only in India but across the world. The leading health concern in India which is caused by poor diet is iron deficiency anemia. The good news is that the burden of communicable diseases has fallen since 1990 but the bad news is the burden of non-communicable diseases has risen significantly. Diabetes alone has increased 53.8& since 2007. Metabolic risk factors such as high blood pressure, high fasting plasma glucose, high body mass index and high LDL are among the top 10 risk factors for death and disability combined(1).
The disease burden of child and maternal malnutrition in India is higher than countries like China, especially in states like Assam and the eight socio economically backward states of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttaranchal and Uttar Pradesh, referred to as the Empowered Action Group (EAG) states(2).According to Dr Arbinder Singal CEO, Fitterfly:
The time has come for everyone from individuals to corporate CSR programs to the government to form an accurate and data driven approach to understand and solve the problems created by nutritional deficiencies in India. On the one hand we have the undernourished who are not able to meet their daily calorific needs and on the other, we have malnutrition even among the urban and affluent population who do not get the right nutrients despite excess calorie intake. An in-depth analysis, especially of the micronutrients in the diet, is required to reveal patterns of consumption and identify the gaps. This can now be done using a simple, smartphone enabled technology, such as the health tech solutions offered by Fitterfly. The idea is to track and assess the dietary intake in a community and analyse the deficit in both macro and micronutrients based on standards set by organizations like ICMR and NIN. Then individuals, corporations and even the government can ensure these needs are met through the right interventions such as the government’s mid-day meal plan, nutritional supplements, fortification of food etc. This will help ensure that the disease burden caused by poor diet and malnutrition can be overcome by generations to come.According to Priya Karkera, Head of Nutrition, Fitterfly:
Most people visit dietitians for dietary issues and meal planning after being diagnosed with a lifestyle disease. The focus needs to shift from diet as an afterthought to treat and manage lifestyle diseases to proactively prevent these diseases. For example, if you are pre-diabetic, we advise you make changes to your daily diet, not just in terms of moderation but eating a diabetic friendly diet to prevent aggravating your condition.
Even during pregnancy, many believe that vitamin supplements are enough to take care of all the nutritional requirements. This is not true. A rich diet, which takes care of your micronutrient requirements is critical for the development of the foetus and also the health of the mother to be.
As indicated by the Global Burden of Disease Study, there is a critical need to focus on pediatric nutrition not just in rural areas but also the urban areas to tackle malnutrition. Even for parents with the means to address the nutritional deficit, there is a glaring lack of awareness regarding the micronutrients needed at every stage of the child’s development. Nutritional deficiencies can not only lead to conditions like iron deficiency anemia but also impact behaviour and mental health.