Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.

Meeting Nutrition challenge: What new guidelines prescribe?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Data related to disease due to poor dietary habit

Mains level: Concerns and guidelines as per the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN)

Why in the news? 

According to the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), approximately 56.4% of India’s overall disease burden is linked to poor dietary habits.

Guidelines by the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN): 

The NIN, operating under the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), has issued comprehensive guidelines on nutrition for vulnerable groups, including pregnant and lactating women, children, and the elderly.

  • Preventive Measures: A healthy diet coupled with regular physical activity can prevent 80% of Type 2 diabetes cases and significantly reduce the burden of heart disease and high blood pressure.
  • Nutrition for Mother and Child: Proper nutrition from conception to the age of 2 years is crucial for optimal growth and development, preventing undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, and obesity in both mothers and children.
  • Suggested general dietary principles: The guidelines recommend getting required nutrients from at least eight food groups, including vegetables, leafy vegetables, roots and tubers, dairy, nuts, and oils.
  • Group-Specific Guidelines:
  1. Pregnant women: Small frequent meals for those experiencing nausea and vomiting. It recommends the consumption of lots of fruit and vegetables, especially those high in iron and folate content.
  2. Infants and children: For the first six months, infants should only be breastfed, and must not be given honey, glucose, or diluted milk. After the age of 6 months, complementary foods must be included.
  3. Elderly: The elderly should consume foods rich in proteins, calcium, micronutrients, and fiber. Apart from pulses and cereals — with at least one-third as whole grains — at least 200-400 ml of low-fat milk or milk products, a fist full of nuts and oilseeds, and 400-500g of vegetables and fruit should be consumed.

Key concerns as per the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN):

  • Rising Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs) Among Adolescents and Children: Due to poor dietary habits led to diseases like cardiovascular disease, cancers, and diabetes are increasingly affecting adolescents and even children in India.
  • Focus on Healthy Dietary Habits: The guidelines emphasize the importance of reducing salt intake and avoiding highly processed foods like packaged snacks, cookies, and sugary treats, which are linked to unhealthy diets and disease burden.
  • High Prevalence of Lifestyle Conditions: The Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey 2019 highlights a concerning prevalence of lifestyle-related conditions even among children, including overweight or obesity, diabetes, pre-diabetes, and abnormal cholesterol levels.
  • Cholesterol Levels: The survey indicates high levels of bad cholesterol (LDL and triglycerides) in children aged 5-9 and pre-teens and teens aged 10-19, along with low levels of good cholesterol in a significant portion of children and adolescents.

Other concerns related to the “Dual nutrition challenge”

  • Incidence of micronutrient (zinc, iron, vitamins) deficiencies ranged from 13% to 30% of children between ages 1 and 19. But still, the prevalence of anemia is at 40.6%, 23.5%, and 28.4% in children under age 5, ages 5-9, and 10-19 respectively.
  • However severe forms of undernutrition such as marasmus (a deficiency of macronutrients such as carbohydrates and proteins) and kwashiorkor (deficiency of proteins) have disappeared from the country.

Conclusion: Implementing these guidelines effectively can significantly contribute to achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets, particularly SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), SDG 3 (Good Health and Well-being), and SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production).

Mains PYQ: 

Q How far do you agree with the view that the focus on the lack of availability of food as the main cause of hunger takes the attention away from ineffective human development policies in India? (15M) UPSC 2018

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