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India's Nutritional Dilemma

India is a nation of extremes. Over one sixth of the global population resides in India. A land with beautiful landscapes and diverse cultures. The contrast, the dialectic, the division, the paradoxes are all what makes India so different.

However, India has been grappling with Malnutrition extremes over the years. The simultaneous occurrence of under nutrition and over nutrition is very common here. It has become a cause for concern. Many among the population live in poverty and are not able to obtain as much food. Food security is a major problem due to the unequal distribution of wealth in the country. There is a huge gap in nutrition availability between the rural and urban areas in India. The people in rural areas thereby suffer from ailments resulting from under nutrition. This is contrasted with the problem of over nutrition, commonly prevalent in the urban sectors. Over nutrition has given rise to an ever expanding number of people within the country suffering from obesity and chronic ailments associated with the same. Thus, there is a dual burden of Malnutrition prevalent in our country.

According to the WHO survey, 1.9 billion adults are overweight or obese, while 462 million are underweight (worldwide). Under nutrition makes children in particular much more vulnerable to disease and death. 38.4% of Indian children under the age of 5 years are stunted. About 93 lakh children in India are suffering from severe wasting. The World Bank estimates that India is one of the highest ranking countries in the world for the number of children suffering from malnutrition. Most common causes of malnutrition include faulty infant feeding practices, impaired utilization of nutrients due to infections and parasites, inadequate food and health security, poor environmental conditions and lack of proper child care practices. High prevalence of malnutrition among young children is also due to lack of awareness and knowledge regarding their food requirements and absence of a responsible adult caregiver.

Fast foods and unhealthy beverages have taken over the Indian market by storm. Changes in portion sizes, energy contents and nutrient profiles of fast food over the last 30 years shows how these have led to lifestyle diseases. Busy lives, stress at work, lack of time to cook meals at home with both parents working long hours, have all made it easy to consume easily available ready to eat, processed and refined foods. Poor nutritional practices, poor intake of dietary fiber, essential vitamins and minerals and lack of awareness on the harmful effects of unhealthy eating patterns has only added to the malnutrition issues in the country. The number of illnesses culminating from the same are on the rise.

Both under nutrition and over nutrition are linked with a range of adverse health conditions. The under weights are susceptible to poor maternal and infant health as well as childhood growth problems and compromised mental development. On the other hand, being overweight and obese and are associated with chronic diseases such as stroke, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, some forms of cancer, etc.

People of the nation have a direct impact on the development of the nation, its productivity, economic growth and ultimately national development. Therefore Nutrition Education is important for one and all. It would be a highly rewarding investment for a healthier future and a healthier community. Healthy People Make Up A Healthy Nation!

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