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Cereals disbursed by ration shops might be the driver of diabetes in India

Green Revolution flooded ration shops with 'unhealthy' cereals in a food starved country

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

M S Swaminathan
M S Swaminathan, feted as the father of Green Revolution.

A recent study suggesting that the poor are increasingly falling prey to is alarming since it is this class of people who cannot afford quality treatment and really depend on public distribution system through With the mostly distributing rice and wheat, these high carbohydrate are propelling a new and very worrying wave of in the country. The linkage to the Green Revolution, unhealthy diet is only beginning to be understood. is considered the capital of the world with about 70 million already afflicted by this disease. But what is most worrying is that till now was considered to be a disease of the more affluent but a new paper in The Lancet & Endocrinology says that India's epidemic is shifting and is likely to disproportionately affect economically disadvantaged groups. The researchers say the findings should cause concern in a country where most treatment costs are paid out-of-pocket by patients, and highlight the urgent need for effective prevention measures. "This trend is a matter of great concern because it suggests that the epidemic is spreading to individuals who can least afford to pay for its management," said R M Anjana, lead author of the study, Vice-President, Madras Research Foundation. The Indian Council of Medical Research - (ICMR-INDIAB) study is the largest nationally representative study of in and includes data from 57,000 people across 15 states. Jitendra Singh, Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office and also a diabetologist, says "every third or fourth patient visiting a hospital or healthcare centre for any clinical complaint happens to be a diabetic". He adds that with today comprising nearly 70 per cent of population which is below 40 years of age and at the same time, the rapidly spreading in young poses a huge challenge. The genesis of the unfolding epidemic has its roots in the way the country has progressed a food starved country has become a food surplus country and this happened due to great strides made by the But the accelerated growth only for the wheat and rice crops. It is these high glycaemic value that then became the backbone of the Public Distribution System, as a consequence over the last few decades a whole generation of Indians has grown up eating rice and wheat as the primary sources of energy. In traditional Indian eating habits, what are unfortunately dubbed coarse, had a preponderance. Millets, jowar, sorghum, red rice, brown rice were the preferred foods but when the flooded the market with cheap polished rice and wheat, not only did these healthier slowly die out but they even became un-remunerative for the farmers.

This vicious cycle is today fuelling an unfolding cyclone of Anjana says "unhealthy diet and physical in-activity alone contribute to half of the epidemic and to add to that the adoption of a westernised diet is accelerating the problem." Junk and fast food are now available in most urban slums and villages, pizzas, chowmein and momos are today common place on roadside eateries. Anjana says "industrialisation, mechanisation, urbanisation and globalisation are all contributing to the bomb that is waiting to explode." According to the new study, the prevalence of across the five states they analysed was 7.3 per cent and rates varied from 4.3 per cent in Bihar to 13.6 per cent in Chandigarh. Almost half of the people in the study did not know they had until they were tested. On average, was twice as common in urban areas (11.2 per cent) compared to rural areas (5.2 per cent). Overall, was more common among people with higher socio-economic status, compared to people with low socio-economic status. However, in urban areas in seven states - most of which rank among the more economically advanced states - was higher among people from low socio- economic status. For example, in urban areas of Chandigarh, the rate of was 26.9 per cent for among people from low socio- economic background, compared to 12.9 per cent for people from high socio-economic backgrounds. The changing lifestyle of Indians is making them move away from traditional healthy foods as Anjana says "the availability, accessibility and affordability of junk food is the biggest problem for India". Fortunately, Anjana says, all of this can be reversed with the right kind of awareness and by making fruits, vegetables and healthy all being made available in

First Published: Mon, June 12 2017. 01:13 IST