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Times of India
03 June 2010
By Pushpa Narayan
Chennai, India

Govt plans to make state PDS platter more healthy
The Tamil Nadu government is planning to take a look at what is on the people’s plate because of the rising incidence of hypertension and diabetes across all sections. In what could involve the sectors of health, agriculture and public distribution, the state food department is working on a feasibility study to replace a part of the rice given via the public distribution system (PDS) with ragi and atta, and palm oil with gingelly oil and sunflower oil.

“We are considering the idea. It requires a feasibility study. We will be speaking to the health and agriculture departments to see if we can replace a part of PDS rice with ragi and atta and palm oil with sunflower oil and gingelly oil. The feasibility study will check for various factors like people’s choice, cost and nutrition,”food secretary Swaran Singh told TOI.

Studies conducted by the National Institute of Epidemiology, the National Institute of Nutrition and the state health department show that at least one in five persons in the state has high blood pressure. The incidence could be up to 25%, according to Dr Prabhdeep Kaur of the National Institute of Epidemiology, who presented her study at a recent international conference on health systems strengthening.

“We have been focussing on prevention through awareness, diet and exercise. If the government supplies groceries that help people prepare healthier meals, it would be the best intervention,”said S Vijayakumar, special secretary, health and family welfare department. Doctors put diet ahead of medicines

The Tamil Nadu government is planning to take a look at what is on the people’s plate because of the rising incidence of hypertension and diabetes across all sections.

In the case of hypertension and diabetes, often doctors put diet ahead of drugs.“We recommend that people use less oil or preferably olive oil. But we know it’s too expensive. So for people who cannot afford it, we recommend sunflower, rice bran or gingelly oil,”said interventional cardiologist G Sengottuvelu, who is a consultant in Apollo Hospitals.

Each oil has different levels and kinds of fat. For instance, palm oil has 45% saturated and 44% mono-unsaturated fat.“Both saturated and unsaturated fat has a role in the body. But we need to be cautious in using it,”said B Sesikiran, director, National Institute of Nutrition.“For instance, what is missing in palm oil is polyunsaturated fat. It can be replaced with sunflower oil or rice bran oil,”he said. Sunflower oil and olive have some amount of polyunsaturated fat.

While one small cup of rice has 100 calories, a roti/chappati has 20 calories less. Nutritionists say they advise patients to take rotis because it is easier to keep count of the quantity, unlike rice.

The human body naturally produces LDL (bad) cholesterol. In addition to this, saturated fat, trans fatty acids and dietary cholesterol also raise blood cholesterol. These can block blood flow and starve the brain or heart of adequate blood, leading to a stroke or heart attack. Mono and poly unsaturated fatty acids don’t raise LDL cholesterol but saturated fats are the main cause of high blood pressure.

“During our study, we found that 26.4% of the population in suburban areas had hypertension, compared to 17.3% in urban and 17.9% in the rural areas. These patients are at a very high risk of having cardiac arrests and strokes. Dietary intervention and awareness can make a difference,”said senior cardiologist Dr S Thanikachalam.

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