Friday, July 24, 2009


The slogan"Health is Wealth" is very apt because the list of diseases to which man is vulnerable is growing every day and quality of life depends very much on freedom from some of the dreaded ailments like diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, dementia, etc. No matter how wealthy one is, disease-free life can be enjoyed only if there is discipline, whether in food consumption or other activities. The science of nutrition, human physiology, biochemical functions of food and health sciences give adequate clue to maintain good quality life. Man also desires to live long and no one likes to be reminded that life is not eternal. Enough knowledge has not come to the surface regarding precise factors that influence aging and longevity. Living well and living long are the major objectives which every human being strives to achieve.

Diets needed to live well are well known with necessary calories, proteins, fats, fibers and micro nutrients. It is the gross indiscipline in eating habits that has tilted the scale against man, in spite of the enormous wealth of information available on every aspect of food. How can one define quality of life? It means different things to different people depending on their priorities in life. There is the 'quality of life index' (QLI) scale which measures the relative position of countries based on several parameters that influence life. QLI integrates data on subjective life satisfaction surveys with objective determinants of quality of life of people across the countries. It uses 9 quality of life factors to determine each country's score on a scale of 1-10. These include health and life, family life including divorce rate, community life, material well being linked to GDP at PPP, political stability and security, climate and geography, job security, political freedom and gender equality. India is supposed to have a score of 5.759 and a world ranking of 73 amongst 111 countries surveyed, with Ireland on top and Zimbabwe at the bottom. Physical quality of life index (PQLI) is another yardstick measured by literacy rate, infant mortality and life expectancy and developed into 1-100 scale. India ranks 68 as against France's top ranking of 88 and Iraq's bottom ranking of 31.

Food is undoubtedly the primary instrument for maintaining and improving our health. We know to day that key to good health is consuming more high nutrient density foods and avoiding or less frequent intake of calorie dense foods. Many foods are sources of good nutrients, helping to keep healthy, as well as bad nutrients that adversely affect the health in the long run. Wrong foods can increase the risk of diseases several fold and need to be avoided. Beyond food, there are factors which affect the well being of human body such as diseases, infectious as well as metabolic types, caused by the environment and genetic inheritance of each individual. Overall Nutritional Quality Index(ONQI), being used by some food manufacturers provide a comparative scale to the consumers regarding the impact of foods on them. ONQI uses 30 nutrients including vitamins, minerals and phytochemical nutrients, considered favorable for health and others like saturated fats, trans fats, sodium, sugar and cholesterol considered unhealthy, to assess various food materials. On a scale of 1-100, healthy foods are supposed to score high while unhealthy foods will have low scores based on which consumer can make an informed choice.

Advocates of Calorie Restriction diets stress the fact that those regularly consuming 30% less calorie based foods can live longer but living long has no meaning if the quality of life is not worth crowing about. Living well and living long too, must be the center piece of one's life


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