Dr Arun Mitra
Lancet, one of the most credible medical journals took up the challenge to
study the dietary patterns around the world and then come up with
recommendations for a healthy diet. It formed an EAT Lancet Commission for the
purpose which had 37 members on it. From our country, a renowned Cardiologist
and President of Public Health Foundation of India, Dr. K. Srinath Reddy and
Ms. Sunita Narayan – Director General, Centre for Science and Environment and
editor of the Down to Earth were the part of this team.
The commission’s exercise was done
with focus on how to maintain good health of a person in regard to dietary
intake and the impact of present day dietary patterns on environment. The
commission studied the need to develop such dietary habits which are
sustainable and ensure availability of sufficient food in times to come. The
recommendations also highlight need for intake of micro nutrients required for
physical and mental growth.
Thus they have come out with
recommendations about diet which is essential, healthy and also environmental
friendly. Its basic recommendations include less intake of red meat & sugar
and increase the intake of vegetables.
recommendations also take into concern the report of Food and Agriculture Organization
of UNO which points out that emissions from the global livestock account for
14.5 per cent of the green-house gases emission as a result of the human
economic growth the nutritional status of our children is alarmingly below
required standards. Roughly 40 per cent of children under five are stunted and
21 per cent of children under five are severely wasted or undernourished.
Needless to say that a well-nourished child is likely to have better immunity
and has more chances to remain healthy and grow well. Most of the
undernourished children come from poor socio economic groups.
India 44 per cent of children under the age of 5 are underweight. 72 per cent
of infants and 52 per cent of married women have anemia. Research has
conclusively shown that malnutrition during pregnancy causes the child to have
increased risk of future diseases, physical retardation, and reduced cognitive
abilities. Malnutrition in our country is both lack of calories as well as lack
of intake of nutrients in proper proportion.
Lancet diet chart has given a deep insight into daily requirements of balanced
food, fulfilling caloric requirements, as well as ingredients essential for
growth of different body parts and mental faculties. Question however is now to
fulfill these in the socio economic structure of our society?
average approximate cost of this diet was found to be around Rs.130 per person
per day. For a family of 5 members this comes out to be Rs.650 per day or Rs.
19500 per day. This is impossible to be met with in present day economic
structure of our country. According to the World Bank data, 27 crores people in
our country are poor who cannot afford two square meals per day. With the
economic reforms undertaken by the government there is constant onslaught on
the poor strata of people. Jobs are being constantly contractorized and outsourced.
Wages of workers are falling every day. The social security benefits are being
For these people it is a nightmarish
job to feed themselves with a balanced diet. There is thus need for very strong
economic reforms for job security of workers, fixing minimum wages based on
persons daily food intake and his/her other needs of family including clothing,
housing, education, recreation etc. For
this we need a powerful public movement if we have to feed our children and
develop a healthy nation. (IPA Service)
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