‘Let thy food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food’

Dr Chandrakant Sambhaji Pandav
This phrase often attributed to Hippocrates rightly lays down the importance of nutrition to prevent or cure disease. As India continues to suffer from a vicious cycle of poor intake of nutrients, poor diversity in diets; the prevalence of people suffering from anaemia and micronutrient deficiencies continues to rise. This is evident from the recently released National Family Health Survey, 5th round (NFHS-5), with 57% of all women in reproductive age group, (an increase of 4.1 percentage points over NFHS-4) and 67.1%of all young children (an increase of 8.5 percentage points over NFHS-4) and a quarter of all men suffering from anaemia (an increase of 2.3 percentage points over NFHS-4). A deep dive in understanding the social determinants of anaemia and micronutrient deficiencies suggest that the prevalence of anaemia is comparable across all income quintiles, and geographies (urban vs rural). As expected, the lowest income quintiles are worst affected.
‘Anaemia’ is a condition in which the number of red blood cells or the haemoglobin concentration within them is lower than normal. Haemoglobin is needed to carry oxygen and if you have too few or abnormal red blood cells, or not enough haemoglobin, there will be a decreased capacity of the blood to carry oxygen to the body’s tissues. This leads to symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath etc. Anaemia and micronutrient deficiencies if left untreated, can lead to lowered immunity, increased frequency of illnesses and in the long-term resulting in stunting and malnutrition. Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional disorder in the world. More than two billion people–over 30% of the world’s population – are anemic, due to iron deficiency; In developing countries this figure is frequently exacerbated by malaria and worm infections.
(To be contd)