Indians consume less of fruits and vegetables

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Indians consume less of fruits and vegetables

Eating patterns are a primary reason for increase in non-communicable diseases

New Delhi, 20 November 2017: As per a recent nation-wide study that assessed urban nutrition, it has been found that Indians consume far less than the recommended amounts of several micro-nutrients and vital vitamins, despite the food diversity that exists in the country. Statistics indicate that the recommended dietary intake of green-leafy vegetables is 40g/CU/day. However, it is only 24g/CU/day in the country. The average intake of cereals and millets was found to be 320g/CU/day. The intake of pulses and legumes was about 42g/CU/day.

The beneficial effects of fruits and vegetables on health are well-recognized. And, several studies have established the advantages of eating a fruit and vegetable-rich diet.

People who eat more fruits and vegetables are 42% less likely to be at risk of heart failure than those who consumed fewer plant-based foods.[2] Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, cutting down on salt, and maintaining a healthy weight are all important parts of a balanced diet that can help lower the risk of heart disease and stroke as also other non-communicable diseases such as type 2 diabetes.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee Dr K K Aggarwal, National President Indian Medical Association (IMA) and President Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) and Dr RN Tandon – Honorary Secretary General IMA in a joint statement, said, “The burden of non-communicable diseases in on the rise today. One of the major factors that can be attributed to this is an unhealthy diet that is also lacking in fruits and vegetables. India is undergoing an ‘epidemiological transition’ from communicable to non-communicable or so-called lifestyle disease. An unhealthy diet is also the basis for metabolic risk factors such as obesity, and raised blood pressure, blood glucose and blood cholesterol levels. A well balanced diet includes all seven colors and six tastes. As per research, affluent Indians are getting 30% of their daily energy intake from fat and are consuming half the amount of dietary fibre than previous generations. Indians are largely ignoring certain warning signs and this poor choice is showing up in mortality data.”

Heart disease has become the top killer in India, followed by diabetes and cancer. While there is a need for concerted action on public health awareness by the government, what is also needed is an effort at an individual level.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, said, “We have slowly but steadily turned to lives dictated by technology, busy work schedules, long working hours, ignorance, and a sedentary lifestyle, not to mention a diet rich in fast and processed food. So-called health conscious individuals consume ready-to-eat breakfast options and a majority skip this most important meal of the day altogether! At least five servings of fruits and vegetables should be taken daily. ”

Given below are some WHO guidelines on the intake of fruits and vegetables.

  • One adult portion of fruit or vegetables is 80 g. As a rough guide, one child portion is the amount they can fit in the palm of the hand.
  • To get the most benefit, the five portions should include a variety of fruit and vegetables.
  • Potatoes and other tubers cannot count towards the five-a-day because they contribute mainly starch.
  • Beans and pulses can supply a maximum of one portion a day, irrespective of how much you eat. Three heaped tablespoons of chickpeas (chana) or kidney beans (rajma) make a portion.
  • Dried fruit like figs and prunes can contribute to the five-a-day. A portion of dried fruit is 30 g.
  • Fruit/vegetable juices and smoothies are best limited to a combined total of 150 ml a day.

Expanding urban tree cover can reduce asthma hospitalization

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People living in polluted urban areas are far less likely to be admitted to hospital with asthma when there are lots of trees in their neighborhood, suggests a new study published in the journal Environment International.

The study which evaluated more than 650,000 serious asthma attacks over a period of 15 years found that green space and gardens were associated with reductions in asthma hospitalization when pollutant exposures were lower but had no significant association when pollutant exposures were higher.

In contrast, tree density (an extra 300 trees per square km) was associated with fewer emergency asthma hospitalizations- 50 fewer emergency asthma cases per 100,000 residents over the study period in a typical urban area with a high level of background air pollution – 15 µg of PM 2.5 per cubic meter, or a nitrogen dioxide concentration around 33 µg per cubic meter.

Planting trees does not simply improve the esthetics of any city. More importantly, planting trees also helps the environment as trees improve the air quality. Air pollution is not only a major environmental hazard but also a major health hazard, in particular from cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses.

The prevailing high pollution levels should be a matter of concern for us and each one of us should do our bit to help reduce air pollution. Expanding tree cover in areas of high pollution in cities, as suggested in this study, can improve respiratory health.

Each one of us can do something every day to prevent or at least help control the air pollution levels and keep the environment healthy. Planting trees is one way of doing so. It is also an economical way to curb the growing problem of air pollution.

We need to plant more trees to save our environment.