By , Pushpa Narayan
Fortified Milk To Prevent Lifestyle Disorders
If the National Institute of Nutrition has its way, you may soon be able to delay or prevent diabetes and hypertension by drinking milk. After fortifying salt and wheat flour with essential nutrients to fight goitre and anaemia, the Hyderabad–based institute is planning to fortify milk with Vitamin D to prevent lifestyle disorders.
Fortification is the scientific process through which micronutrients are added to staple food to bridge deficiencies. “We are looking at lowfat milk as an option to fortify Vitamin D, the deficiency of which is growing alarmingly in Indians,” said NIN director Dr B Sasikeran. It is an irony that the vitamin, which is formed in the body due to exposure to sunlight, is in short supply in a country that has abundant sunlight. Experts say this is because people avoid outdoors or use sunscreen lotions.
Vitamin D deficiency can also cause bone degeneration and cancer. In five years, deficiency–related diseases will reach pandemic proportions in the country, Dr Sasikeran said at the inauguration of a two–day national conference on ‘nutrition in metabolic disorders’ in the city.
“Milk is fortified with vitamin D in several countries. But we don’t know if we will see the desired results in India as milk is not consumed in several rural pockets. We will be able to see success only if we encourage more people to consume milk,” he said. Since vitamin D can be blended well with fat, there are other options such as edible oil. “But we are recommending that even oil should be taken in very low quantities,” he said.
The sun’s ultraviolet B rays absorbed through the skin trigger Vitamin D production in the body. “A 20–minute walk can give you adequate nutrition, but many people use sunscreens that have high SPF (sun or protection factor). This blocks absorption,” he said.
People with metabolic syndrome caused by vitamin deficiency are twice more likely to develop cerebrovascular disease (CVD) and about five times more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes compared to people without metabolic syndrome. “Nutrition has a vital role to play. We will be able to prevent a lot of diseases if we reduce vitamin D deficiency,” he said.
Though genetics also have a role, metabolic disorders are predominantly caused by environmental factors in India, said Dr D Prabhakaran, executive director, Centre for Chronic Disease Control, Initiative for Cardiovascular Health Research in the Developing Countries, New Delhi. In the next two days, panelists will discuss the role of nutritional therapies in managing metabolic disorders.