The beginning of the session saw Moderator Mr. Arun Mishra, Head Global, Health & Wellness, Regulatory Affairs, Unilever extending a warm welcome and introduction of the panelists.
Dr. Jagmeet Madan, National President, IDA shared here views highlighting as to why the micronutrients are relevant in these COVID times. She shared that it’s not a hidden fact that India has been suppressed always under the triple burden of gross undernutrition, overnutrition & obesity, one thread that is constant across the spectrum is Micronutrient deficiencies or “Hidden Hunger”.
Micronutrient deficiencies have become more pertinent & apparent in recent times because we are looking at the relevance of these nutrients now at a molecular level. From cellular metabolic reactions to strengthen the immune system we now need the micronutrients more than ever.
Recent studies have emerged with some interesting findings on the COVID-19 virus & ACE-2 receptors concluding the nutrients that we need at the cellular level and that we need to emphasize, use it to our advantage to deal with the pandemic situation that we are in today.
She also highlighted that these micronutrients are very potent antioxidants & contribute to the anti-inflammatory requirements. She also highlighted the stark truth that no matter how healthy the BMI of an average Indian might be still inherently carries the risk of cardiovascular diseases and excess adipose tissue in the body which we also call “Lean Obesity”. The recent RDAs released have given us a clear and precise explanation of the nutrient needs at the individual & population level both focussed around macro & micronutrient requirements.
Vitamin C, D, Zinc, Omega-3, Vitamin E, A are all in the limelight when it comes to fighting infections, strengthening the immune system in these pandemic times at a molecular level.
Moderator Mr. Arun Mishra, Head Global, Health & Wellness, Regulatory Affairs, Unilever also enlightened us with the fourth burden which is very relevant in these pandemic times, and that is, the susceptibility to infections and diseases which has a large public impact in terms of the country’s economic growth.
Mr. Tarun Vij, Country Director, India, GAIN, focusing on the existing crisis, public health & policy perspective shared that the diversified diet should be the starting point while we are looking at the long-term food security at the individual and population level. Firstly, there has been a severe disruption of income particularly the daily-wagers which directly has nutritional implications and thus increases the reliance on staple food to bridge the gap between affordability & good nutrition. The food supply chains are also disrupted and have a direct effect on the supply of perishable food items. Thirdly, our interrupted and overburdened Indian healthcare systems and humanitarian responses get undermined in terms of delivery & access to health & nutrition services for the population. Therefore, we all need to come together to plan and put the strategy in place as to how we have to conduct the health & nutrition services for the population, especially the marginalized one.
Bringing the industry perspective to center stage Dr. Bhavna Sharma, Head, Nutrition Science Division ITC Ltd. shared that food brings joy, happiness, nourishment & is a part of our daily balanced diet but in the recent changing times we have seen huge shifts in the way we look at the healthcare burden.
She highlighted the fact that Vitamin A deficiencies are still prevalent and as per NNMB, at a household level we are only able to fulfill 22% of the entire intake required of vitamin A. Thus the cost-effective & affordable solution of staple & oil fortification implementation at the community level is required more than ever.
Sharing his perspective, Dr. Nikhil Kelkar, Jt. Managing Director, Hexagon Nutrition shared that apart from the micronutrients, the macronutrients also deserve the same volume of limelight especially the proteins. In the general discourse on food and nutrients, protein has always been an under-debated subject in India. A 2017 survey by Indian Market Research Bureau (IMRB) revealed that 73 percent of urban rich are protein deficient with 93 percent of them unaware of their daily protein requirements. These revelations find resonance in the Inbody-IPSOS study of 2018 which illustrated that 71 per cent Indians have poor muscle health and 68 per cent have lower protein content than adequate levels.
He also highlighted that by and large people associate protein as an ideal food component for the bodybuilders, sick or malnourished while ignoring the fact that protein is an integral part of our body and is required for various mechanisms such as synthesis of hormones, building muscle mass, regulatory mechanisms and even building up of the immune system. Therefore, Inadequate intake of protein can lead to weaker immune function, slower recovery from illness, and loss of lean body mass.
The pandemic has caused apparent trends in lifestyles and eating behaviors, it is high time people should realize the importance of protein
Seconding the above thought, Dr. Jagmeet Madan, National President, IDA also communicated that we need to prioritize what is our strength, and we need to start to emphasize proteins from pulses that is inherent to India. The variety of pulses available to us Indians not only supply us with proteins, micronutrients but with soluble fiber as well. A combination of cereals, Nutri-pulses along with the addition of milk and milk products in smaller quantities in totality, would build the quality & quantity of the overall protein.
Laying stress on Modern Nutrition science, Nutraceutical & Ancient Ayurveda, Dr. Bhavna Sharma, Head, Nutrition Science Division ITC Ltd. also shared that in the last few months the spike from a consumer point of view that the industry has seen, Ayurveda has remained always on the top. With the shift in consumer awareness to immunity-boosting products available, the trend is shooting up constantly. Ayurveda has been a part of every one of our lives starting right from our kitchens but we should also be considerate of the fact that Ayurveda is not a magic wand and does not give immediate results. It’s a principle that needs to be incorporated in the daily routine as a principle in the right combination, duration & quantities.
Mr. Tarun Vij, Country Director, India, GAIN, also added that safe-nutritious-healthy-diversified food should be our goal & commercialization of innovations such as biofortified food products like zinc-rich wheat & iron-rich pearl millet are upcoming solutions that GAIN aims to introduce as a part of the overall social protection scheme. Also, large scale food fortification of the staple foods in public-private partnerships is here to exist for now.
The enriched panel discussion concluded with closing remarks by Moderator Mr. Arun Mishra, Head Global, Health & Wellness, Regulatory Affairs, Unilever. He said that a holistic approach of whole heart-healthy meals along with addressing the micronutrient deficiencies is the need. These challenging times are an opportunity for the industry, academia, Govt. Public & Private sectors to come together & focus on accessible – affordable nutrition for the country.
The Q&A session saw an interesting flow of discussion around the sensory and taste aspects of the food fortificants & compounds. In the same context Dr. Nikhil Kelkar, Jt. Managing Director, Hexagon Nutrition added that “While choosing the right fortificants it’svery essential to choose the right salt of vitamins and minerals as it directly affects the taste of the final product.