Faster life with proteins


Reports of a recent survey on protein consumption in UK clearly exhibit a gap between understanding and action. While 81% consumers acknowledge importance of protein consumption, only 44% claimed to have daily diet with correct allowance of the nutrient and only 16% consumers were making efforts to seek and consume products with high protein content. The awareness about the correct health benefits of proteins was also low, the survey revealed.

If this is the status in an educated, knowledgeable, developed and financially well-settled society, one can imagine what must be the situation in our country which has large number of families that are poor, uneducated (including those who are educated but unaware or careless and hence uneducated about the heathy diet) and can’t even afford the required number of daily meals in adequate quantity. No wonder the average intake of proteins in India also is still not adequate.

Protein intake in India has surely grown over the years, but not to the level it should have been. From 1970 to 2004 it grew from 49 gms per day per capita to 55 gms and reached to 61.5 gms in 2013. But in relation to developed country averages it has not grown much. From 50% of the OECD level in 1980 it has increased to only 59% in 2013.

Protein is the body’s nutritional powerhouse. American biochemist and author Michael J Behe had said proteins carry out amazingly diverse functions. Its deficiency can lead to various problems like retardation or failure of growth among children, failure to digest and absorb the food, disturbance in liver function, anemia, lack of energy and sluggish metabolism causing gain weight.

To avoid such health problems, in 2009 an expert group in India recommended protein requirement for a normal adult to be 1 gm per kg of body weight per day. Development and spread of nutrigenomics may bring more precision in such recommendations for each individual as this particular branch uses genetics as the tool to formulate a customised health solution, including diet. India’s first such comprehensive nutrigenomics lab has now been launched in Pune.

However, this is an expensive solution available only to a particular class of society. It may surely help in creating awareness and eradicating problems caused by wrong diet at least in that one class of people, ultimately reducing some burden from the general healthcare systems, making that slot available to the more needy. But, for masses, who are deprived of even regular meals many times, providing generally recommended protein intake itself will continue to be a challenge.

Food security can be a small step in that direction, but may not be an adequate one since, as many experts think, food security cannot guarantee nutrition security. Still, as a first step in that direction food security assumes lot of importance. But the real final objective would be nutrition security with adequate intake of all nutrients, including protein. Creating awareness about it and developing people’s purchasing power for that are real challenges for the country to face. Proteins are important as physician and author Martin H Fischer puts it, “Life goes faster on protein.”

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