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Malnutrition

India loses 4% of GDP to malnutrition, say experts ahead of budget

A diverse set of processes link health care, education, sanitation, hygiene, access to resources and women empowerment

Nearly 4 percent of India’s GDP is estimated to have been lost due to malnutrition and certainly women and children deserve a better deal in expenditure outlay, since the country hosts 50 percent of undernourished children of the world and women and girl children fall last in the household food serving, said an ASSOCHAM-EY joint paper ahead of the union budget that will be presented on Thursday.

Quoting data from the National Family Health Survey-4, the ASSOCHAM-EY paper noted with concern that close to 60 percent of our children aged between 6 – 59 months are anaemic. It is only about 10 percent of the country’s total children who are receiving adequate diet.
The women and girl child, for whom the NDA government has launched flagship programmes, are no better in terms of their daily nutrition intake. About 55 percent of non-pregnant women and 58 percent of pregnant women aged between aged 15-49 years are anaemic.
“A large part of India continues to consume non-nutritious, non-balanced food either in the form of undernutrition, overnutrition or micronutrient deficiencies. It is important to understand that malnutrition derives not just from lack of food but from a diverse set of inter-linked processes linking health care, education, sanitation, hygiene, access to resources and women empowerment,” it said.
Assocham secretary general DS Rawat said, the government needs to pursue policies which “focus on removing health and social inequities. Programmes and policies that aim to address the nutrition burden present a double – win situation”.
Ernst and Young LLP Partner Amit Vatsyayan said: “While sub-optimal nutrition impacts the overall health and quality of life of people, it also adversely impacts the productivity of the country. It is estimated that that nearly 4 percent of the GDP is lost due to different forms of malnutrition.”
The adverse, irreversible and inter-generational impacts of malnutrition make optimal nutrition critical to the development of the country as a whole and all its citizens.
The paper said that in order to cater to the large unmet needs of micronutrients, it is imperative to focus on production diversity as well as food fortification at a macro level.
“For instance, millets are three to five times more nutritious than rice and wheat in terms of proteins, minerals and vitamins. They are cost effective crops as well; yet considered as poor people’s crop while rice and wheat are preferred over them. Millets are rich in Vitamin B, calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium, zinc and are gluten-free. They are suitable for people with gluten allergies or those with high blood sugar levels”.
Food Fortification

Why Fortification ??

Fortification is adding vitamins and minerals to foods to prevent nutritional deficiencies. The nutrients regularly used in grain fortification prevent diseases, strengthen immune systems, and improve productivity and cognitive development.

Wheat flour, maize flour, and rice are primarily fortified to:

  1. Prevent nutritional anemia
  2. Prevent birth defects of the brain and spine
  3. Increase productivity
  4. Improve economic progress

In 2015, the United Nations adopted 17 Sustainable Development Goals; fortifying commonly eaten grains is a step toward addressing these.

Fortification is successful because it makes frequently eaten foods more nutritious without relying on consumers to change their habits.

The following 12 vitamins and minerals are used in flour and rice fortification globally. Each country sets standards to include the specific nutrients its population needs.

  • Iron, riboflavin, folic acid, zinc, and vitamin B12 help prevent nutritional anemia which improves productivity, maternal health, and cognitive development.
  • Folic acid (vitamin B9) reduces the risk of severe birth defects of the brain and spine.
  • Zinc helps children develop, strengthens immune systems, and lessens complications from diarrhea.
  • Niacin (vitamin B3) prevents the skin disease known as pellagra.
  • Riboflavin (vitamin B2) helps with metabolism of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.
  • Thiamin (vitamin B1) prevents the nervous system disease called beriberi.
  • Vitamin B12 maintains functions of the brain and nervous system.
  • Vitamin D helps bodies absorb calcium which improves bone health.
  • Vitamin A deficiency is the leading cause of childhood blindness. It also diminishes an individual’s ability to fight infections. Vitamin A can be added to wheat or maize flour, but it is often added to rice, cooking oils, margarine, or sugar instead.
  • Calcium builds strong bones, helps transmit nerve messages and assists with muscle function and blood clotting. A few countries add calcium to flour, but it is more commonly added to other foods.
  • Selenium helps with reproduction and thyroid gland function.
  • Vitamin B6 is needed for enzyme reactions involved in metabolism.

Fortification as part of a country’s nutrition strategy is supported by global organizations such as UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), and Nutrition International. For the latest evidence and guidance on nutrition interventions, see the WHO e-Library of Evidence for Nutrition Actions (eLENA).

Source: Food Fortification Initiative