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Exploring: How Nutrition & Nutraceuticals foster physical, mental, social, and economic well-being?

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The India Startup Festival 2023 featured a diverse array of round-table discussions, each focused on a specific sector and graced by the presence of prominent industry leaders. My Startup Life will delve into the insightful conversations that took place at Satya Sai University for Human Excellence as part of this remarkable event.

The first of the series is an extract from the Round Table on nutrition and nutraceuticals. Dr. Baby K C, Vice President of Synthite Industries, delivered an insightful keynote address, highlighting the importance of balanced well-being achieved through natural, fresh, and safe nutrition. This article unfolds the highlights from this enlightening discussion, showcasing the critical importance of these elements in fostering physical, mental, social, and economic well-being.

Global Health Imperative

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has consistently underlined the pivotal role of nutrition and nutraceuticals in promoting better health. Taking a holistic approach to well-being, WHO emphasises six critical factors, including child and maternal health, strong immune systems, and disease prevention. However, alarming statistics reveal that a staggering 149.2 million children under the age of five grapple with undernutrition, with a heartbreaking 45% of child deaths attributed to this pressing issue. Despite relentless policy efforts, the Global Hunger Index ranking of many developing countries, including India, remains disheartening, shedding light on the enduring plight of undernourished populations, particularly among women.

The Challenge of Nutrient Deficiencies

Even when nutritious food sources are within reach, the spectre of vitamin and mineral deficiencies continues to haunt children across India. This concern transcends mere availability. Nutraceuticals, recognised as food components facilitating disease prevention and treatment, offer a glimmer of hope in this challenging scenario. India’s expanding nutraceutical market reflects a growing awareness of their potential benefits.

Promoting Nutraceuticals and Overcoming Hurdles

The mission to bolster nutrition and nutraceuticals demands scientific excellence and innovative strategies. Infusing high-nutrition elements into daily diets is paramount. Nutraceuticals can seamlessly integrate into convenient formats like energy bars, providing an accessible path to better health. However, the road ahead is not without its share of obstacles. Authenticating raw materials, addressing microbial contamination, and managing pesticide residues, especially within the confines of maximum residual limits, present formidable challenges that require sharp attention.

Harnessing the Potential of Natural Resources

As we embark on this transformative journey, it becomes evident that the key lies in the holistic ecosystem encompassing nutrition and nutraceuticals. All the necessary elements are at our disposal; the resolve to adapt from production to consumption remains. The question that looms large is how we transition from mere availability to making millets, herbs, and other nutritious elements an enjoyable and integral part of our daily lives.

Our cultural heritage plays a crucial role in this transformation. Foods like ragi, for instance, evoke memories of home and comfort. They connect us to our roots and traditions. The challenge, particularly when crafting comprehensive white papers and strategies, is ensuring all stakeholders take up their roles and share responsibility. It is not enough for passionate discussions to thrive; genuine accountability within this ecosystem is essential.

Fostering Pride in Agriculture and Nutraceuticals

A few endeavours exemplify an exemplary model of generating grassroots demand. The key is to make farmers proud of cultivating millets and herbs. This can be achieved by elevating demand and synergising these natural resources with traditional wisdom, such as Ayurveda, to enhance their value while preserving their essence.

A Deeper Dive into Nutrition

We must delve deeper into nutrition in our quest for a healthier society. It’s not just about individual nutrients but the entire dietary landscape. Consider the trillions of bacteria coexisting within our bodies. These microorganisms rely on fibre as their primary sustenance, which isn’t considered a nutrient for humans but vital for the bacterial ecosystem. When these bacteria lack fibre, problems arise, impacting our gut health and immune system.

Modern Challenges in Metabolic Health

The modern world presents a unique set of challenges, including the impact of processed foods on our metabolic health. Three elements can be particularly harmful:

• Branched-chain amino acids.

• Processed fructose.

• Industry practices strip fibre and enhance fructose levels for palatability.

The Path to Better Health

Chronic metabolic diseases like hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and dementia have become contemporary health challenges. The key driver behind these conditions is mitochondrial function. Mitochondria, the energy powerhouses of our cells, play a critical role in overall health. Factors like diet and lifestyle can influence mitochondrial health.

Addressing “Anti-Nutrients” and Nutritional Diversity

Innovative processing techniques, such as aeroponics, can address the issue of “anti-nutrients” in plants and promote nutritional diversity. Aeroponics enables the cultivation of green leafy vegetables without soil, reducing contamination risks and enhancing nutrient content. Campaigns like the “International Year of Millets” aim to create demand for these nutritious grains.

Transitioning to a Healthier Diet

Transitioning from calorie-dense foods to nutritious options like millet is essential to tackle the rising prevalence of non-communicable diseases. As we shift focus from food security to nutrition security, millets take centre stage as a source of balanced nutrition. The industry’s responsibility is to develop millet-based products that cater to changing dietary preferences. Educating consumers and crafting delicious millet-based products can facilitate this transition.

In conclusion, the journey towards improved nutrition and nutraceuticals is a collective endeavour that demands scientific rigour, innovation, and a holistic approach. Natural resources like spices and herbs offer a gateway to a healthier society. The key isn’t just finding isolated solutions; it’s nurturing an entire ecosystem. Everything we need is already within reach; it’s about harnessing this potential and ensuring that each stakeholder takes on their role with genuine accountability. Empowering farmers, promoting nutritious options, and embracing innovative approaches can bridge the gap between food security and nutrition security, ultimately leading to healthier, happier societies.

Key Points 

  • 149.2 million children under five grapple with undernutrition, with 45% of child deaths attributed to this pressing issue.
  • The key is to make farmers proud of cultivating millets and herbs.
  • Campaigns like the ‘International Year of Millets’ aim to create demand for these nutritious grains.
  • Transitioning from calorie-dense foods to nutritious options like millet is essential to tackle the rising prevalence of non-communicable diseases.

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