Both fatal and non-fatal neurological disorders are quite prevalent in India and contribute quite substantially to the already existing health-related burdens. Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, dementia, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and related disorders, among others, are quite high especially in the urban population. Among these, epilepsy is the one that needs the most attention and is widespread among the rural population. Due to a lack of knowledge and the right attitude, people with conditions such as epilepsy, sometimes, do not receive treatment that is adequate and effective.
A joint study conducted by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in collaboration with other health institutes, the largest contributors to neurological disorders were stroke (37.9 per cent) and headache disorders (17.5 per cent) followed by epilepsy, cerebral palsy, etc. In fact, one among every three Indians suffers from a headache either mild or severe and gets neglected in public health priority.
Poor lifestyle choices, increased stress, inadequate nutritional intake increases the possibilities of neurological disorders. Hence it is even more important to highlight the benefits of healthy nutrition.
Neuro-nutrition, also known as ’Brain Food’ is gaining widespread popularity. However, this awareness is more in the metro areas and still must reach masses across segments. Brain supplements claiming to boost memory and relieve stress and anxiety are available everywhere and are mostly targeted to the older population.
The industry predominantly focuses on natural molecules like Omega-3 fatty acids, Alpha (glycerylphosphorylcholine) GPC, phosphatidylserine, and Sphingomyelin. Over the last few years, herbal extracts like ginseng, curcuminare also gaining traction.
For neurodegenerative disorders due to protein folding, nutraceuticals containing bacoside-A, bacoside-B, brahamine, etc. are used. For Alzheimer’s, nutraceuticals that are typically antioxidant and contain flavonoids, carotenoids, and flavones are beneficial. Dietary DHA-enriched phosphatidylcholine (DHA-PC) and phosphatidylserine (DHA-PS) could improve brain function. In the treatment for depression, nutraceuticals that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties are used like products omega 3 fatty acids, Vit-D, and zinc folic acid.
According to a recent report by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Grant Thornton, India is poised to become the 5th largest consumer market by 2025. The largest consumption category would be food and beverage. In India, food and beverage companies need to commit strongly to ensure they deliver nutritional value in all the products available in the market today. With the prevalence of neurological disorders in India, the present outbreak of the COVID-19 has worsened the situation by presenting many new and complex neurological manifestations.
Government health schemes such as Ayushman Bharat already have provisions for managing neurological disorders, which can be further enhanced. In India, creating awareness regarding neurological disorders and clearing taboos and myths around them coupled with promoting a healthy lifestyle can go a long way in the prevention, early detection, and management of this disorder. People in India, especially those in the rural segment need to be provided with access to inexpensive treatment and nutritional options as well as easy availability of rehab programmes and centres to manage neurological conditions. Advocating simple and healthy lifestyle changes like managing stress and blood pressure by leading an active life can go a long way in changing the situation in India.
Also, industry-academia relationships are essential to generate awareness, encourage innovation and improve employability. The collaboration can not only strengthen interactions with some of the best innovators in the world, but can also offer a better understanding of the etiology of these neurological disorders. Continued collaborations can also help gather information to guide the right treatment choice to treat these conditions. The resulting collaboration can also help fetch multiracial, multi-ethnic, and multicultural data serving the purpose of a larger community.
However, building and operating such collaborations typically requires a delicate balance of appreciation and acknowledgment of the culture of both sides. Deliberate discussion and establishment of a modus operandi are important to form an alliance that meets the needs of both the industry and academia alike.
Arun Kedia, Managing Director, VAV Life Sciences, Mumbai