Monday, August 17, 2009


If the whole world can be divided into two distinct groups, majority will fall under the category of those trying to get sufficient food for a decent living while others live for the pleasure of eating food without any consideration of the consequences of over consumption. According to WHO almost a billion people in this planet, more than 15% of world population, do not get adequate food to lead a normal healthy life while a few millions in the developed as well as the developing countries consume 150% of the normal food requirement. It is a fact that modern living style diseases like CVD, diabetes, cancers, obesity etc are also more prevalent in populations consuming foods which are qualitatively poor but calorie-wise super rich. The larger philosophical question that emerges from such a scenario is whether we live to eat or eat to live!

It is not that we do not know what is best for us to maintain a sound health but high income levels and a fantastic range of pleasure-giving food products, most of them nutritionally imbalanced, churned out by the industry, are blinding us to the potential hazard posed by irrational choice of foods and over eating to satisfy our taste buds. On another level the issue that needs focusing is how far we are justified in switching over indiscriminately to processed foods, forgetting that natural foods like fruits, vegetables, whole cereals and milk are the protective foods that safeguard our life in the long run. Processed foods, at best can only supplement our diet based on natural foods. Clarified fruit juices, refined grain flours and products derived from them, fat rich cream products, double refined cooking oils and hydrogenated fats, synthetic beverages, mass manufactured fried foods, fat rich restaurant foods, etc are available to the consumers but frequency and extent of their consumption have critical influence on their health. Claim to richness and wealth need not be demonstrated through gluttony and considerations for fellow denizens should guide our food habits. The recent disclosure that even the amount of food wasted by the rich nations in Europe, Japan, Canada and the US can feed 50% of the global population is shocking to the conscience of every human being.

For almost two decades food scientists have been suggesting that man can live 20% longer by controlling the intake of calories through the food without compromising on the level of nutrients needed for normal life. Though these findings were based on animal studies involving mice and monkeys, the revelation gives further impetus to the protagonists, advocating restriction of consumption of food calories for a better and longer life. It is a pity that man learns to correct himself only when pushed to the corner and disciplined eating gets practiced invariably when one faces the extreme situation of misery, pain and morbidity caused by one or the other disorder due to past indiscretions in food choices. Consumer education, policy orchestration and voluntary restraint by food industry do not seem to be working and it is sad that scientists are forced to look for the magical pill that will kill the appetite in our efforts to control food consumption at the individual level. The discovery of Resveratrol, a chemical present in red wine and Rapamycin drug are claimed to be able to suppress the appetite significantly and their consumption on a wide scale by people with tendency to over eat, may spare enough food that can save millions of famished people in Asia, Africa and South America!


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