Friday, February 6, 2009


Over weight, obesity, BMI and similar words always instill a sense of fear amongst people, especially those self conscious of their body weight changes at different phases of their life. No matter what doctors and nutritionists say about the connection between heart diseases and food consumption, very few take them seriously as the repercussions are not immediate to be perceptible on a day to day basis. Every body must be aware that over eating is the major reason for life style disorders like Cardio Vascular Disease (CVD) but still indulge in calorie rich foods because either such foods are easily available or they do not have the ability to gauge the caloric load and high fat contents in many foods. Intervention in States like California in the US is some times criticized because many think it is infringing on individuals' right to eat what he needs or likes. But is this stand sustainable when the whole nation's health is affected by injudicious consumption habits fostered by the environment, the State itself has created in the name of value addition and industrial development under a free economy? California, a progressive State gained attention recently because of its two actions in disciplining the food sector and restraining them from making available unbalanced foods through state policies. First it proposed to bring in zoning regulations to ban setting up of fast food out lets near newly laid residential lay outs so that the residents will have to travel some distance before gaining access to so called junk foods with empty calories. Second, the insistence on declaring nutritional composition of every food served in the restaurants is intended to sensitize the consumer regarding high calories and high fats.

According to a new study at the famous DeBakey Heart and Vascular Center in Houston, many people can be saved from heart diseases if a conscious attempt is made even to reduce some weight instead of aiming to reach ideal BMI through rigorous dieting which puts off many people from even trying. For example if a person's ideal weight is 60 kg and the actual weight is 75 kg, the 20% weight reduction to be achieved probably would never be feasible unless very rigorous diet and exercise regimes are imposed. But the new study gives great hope to such persons to save themselves from CVD and other diseases through a limited attempt to reduce their weight by as little as 6.5% to get significant benefits. What are these so called benefits? If the report from this Center is to be believed, such benefits include substantial reductions in blood pressure, triglycerides and total cholesterol, which in turn will reduce dramatically the risks associated with CVD. More significantly these impressive results occur early in the weight loss regime, well before the individuals even begin to approach their ideal body weight. Since this study was done in the internationally reputed heart institute, millions of people may derive solace and relief by raising their spirit and getting into modest weight losing programs.

Restaurants in India are being pulled from two directions, one from the consumers and the other from the nutritionists. Their reputation lies in serving best tasting foods in their out lets which obviously is possible only by using high fats and lot of frying, both considered dangerous from the health point of view. But nutritionists want them to design balanced preparations, avoid trans fats, saturated fats, acrylamides etc. With keen competition for the attention of the customers, many caterers are reluctant to modify their traditional recipes and cooking modes and this ensues a vicious cycle trapping both the consumers and the hoteliers. With eating out practice not widely prevalent now, the role of eateries in aggravating the current over weight traits in people is rather limited but in future such a situation may arise especially in metro regions where high family income and time constraints will drive customers in droves to restaurants. If proper strategy is drawn now to pre-empt serving of high fat, high calorie, less fiber foods in public eateries, the nation can avoid uncontrolled growth of obesity and accompanying morbidity in coming years. Restaurant sector must be forced to include at least 20% of their offerings with low fats, low sugar, trans fat free, high fiber, low sodium and other beneficial plant ingredients. Agencies like MFPI, Ministry of Health, DST, DBT, ICAR, National Horticulture Board and National Dairy Development Board must pool their resources to help the hoteliers by sponsoring R & D in competent organizations for developing healthy foods and making the recipes available to them.


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