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Common Nutritional Problems in India You Must Know About

Dr. Ajay KohliNov 22, 2022

To perform different functions and processes, the body needs various types of nutrients, which also play a major role in keeping the body fit and healthy.

Most of these nutrients are obtained through food. However, a large number of people in India do not get enough nutrients, which results in various disorders, including anaemia, osteoporosis, night blindness, and so on.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation report, 190.7 million people suffered from nutritional problems in India from 2014-2016.

Nutritional Problems In India

Contents

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What is the Cause of Nutritional Problems in India?

Typically, nutritional deficiency is considered a problem plaguing the poor, who cannot afford a balanced meal. Thus poverty remains the biggest cause of nutritional problems in India.

However, lately, research has shown prevalent malnutrition even in urban, wealthy individuals. The urban rich have enough to eat, but poor food choices have caused nutritional deficiencies among them.

The influence of the Western diet has led to people consuming more fats, refined carbohydrates, and sugars that only provide empty calories without any substantial nutrition.

Types of Nutritional Deficiencies

Nutritional problems in India can be divided into two types:

  • Primary: This type of deficiency is caused by an imbalanced diet and improper food intake. Taking a nutritious, balanced diet and vitamin supplements eliminates these deficiencies.

  • Secondary: Secondary nutritional deficiencies occur because of some type of underlying medical cause, for example, lactose intolerance, celiac disease, etc. Unless and until the underlying disorder is treated, secondary nutritional deficiencies will linger.

Symptoms of Nutritional Deficiencies

Nutritional deficiency can lead to some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Weakness

  • Poor concentration

  • Reduced appetite

  • Lightheadedness

  • Fatigue

  • Depression

  • Hair loss

  • Constipation

  • Irritability

  • Weight loss

  • Increased susceptibility to infections

  • Loss of muscle mass

  • Slow recovery from illnesses

  • Palpitations 

  • Pale skin

Most Common Nutritional Problems in India

The following are the most common nutritional problems in India:

1. Vitamin D Deficiency

An important nutrient for maintaining bone health, vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is also known for preventing certain types of cancers.

It maintains normal calcium and phosphate levels and helps in muscle contraction, nerve signalling, and cell functions.

A deficiency of vitamin D can lead to osteoporosis, repeated fractures, and bone and muscle weakness. It can also lead to severe medical conditions such as:

  • Diabetes

  • Hypertension

  • Cancer

  • Multiple sclerosis

In children, it can cause a rare, severe disease called ‘rickets’. 

2. Vitamin A Deficiency

Vitamin A is essential for healthy vision, metabolism, and cell development. It also keeps the lining of your intestines and urinary tract in proper shape.

A major cause of vision loss and blindness, vitamin A deficiency can lead to certain complications with the heart, lungs, skin, tissues, and immune system.

3.  Vitamin C Deficiency

Important for the normal functioning of the blood vessels, vitamin C is essential for the absorption of iron in the body, which is used to make red blood cells. Vitamin C benefits the teeth, gums, skin, and tissue.

Found in citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes, strawberries, broccoli, etc., vitamin C deficiency can cause: 

  • Extreme fatigue 

  • Weight loss

  • Anaemia

  • Weak connective tissues

4.   Vitamin B12 Deficiency

In order to maintain a healthy nervous system, prevent mutations in the DNA, and induce the formation of red blood cells, vitamin B12 is extremely important.

A lack of this vitamin can lead to atrophic gastritis, Crohn’s disease, parasitic infection, celiac disease, or certain neurological symptoms. Vitamin B12-rich foods include:

  • Dairy

  • Meat

  • Eggs

  • Fish

  • Poultry

4. Protein Deficiency

Known as the building blocks of the body, proteins are essential to maintain muscle mass. They help build healthy and strong bones and muscles, and also have an impact on the growth of your hair and nails.

Lack of protein can cause oedema of the legs, hands, and abdomen. It can also lead to mood changes, slow healing of wounds, preeclampsia, weakness, fatigue, etc.

In children and infants, a protein deficiency may cause Marasmus and Kwashiorkor- protein malnutrition disorders.

5. Iron Deficiency

Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional problems in India.

A mineral crucial for the formation of haemoglobin in the blood, iron is extremely important for the body. Its deficiency results in iron deficiency anaemia, fatigue, paleness, and shortness of breath. 

6. Folate Deficiency

Also known as vitamin B9, folate plays a vital role in DNA and RNA synthesis in the body. Its deficiency in a pregnant mother can give rise to congenital disabilities in the child.

It also helps the body make healthy red blood cells. Hence the shortfall in folate can also lead to anaemia, weakness, mouth sores, and other symptoms.

7.Iodine Deficiency

The deficiency of iodine is known to cause impaired thyroid functioning, leading to hypothyroidism symptoms such as weight gain, fatigue, dry skin, weakness, etc.

Initiatives Taken by the Government to Resolve Common Nutritional Problems in India 

Malnutrition has been a prime concern when it comes to public health in our country. The Government has taken multiple steps to reduce nutritional problems in India. Here are some of the programmes and plans launched: 

  • The National Nutritional Anaemia Prophylaxis Programme, 1970

  • Weekly Iron and Folic Acid Supplementation Programme, 2013

  • National Prophylaxis Programme against Nutritional Blindness due to vitamin A deficiency, 1970 

  • The National Goitre Control Programme, 1962 

  • National Nutrition Mission, 2003

In Conclusion

Since independence, India has witnessed the ‘white revolution’ and ‘green revolution’ and made immense progress in food production. The Government has also launched several schemes to boost the nutritional status of the people.

However, millions of citizens still suffer from malnutrition. Poverty, ignorance about a balanced diet, western food influences, etc., are some of the factors contributing to nutritional problems in India.

The right health insurance policy can help you get timely medical assistance if you have symptoms of nutritional deficiencies. These nutritional deficiencies can sometimes also lead to a health scare and emergencies.

Having a comprehensive health insurance plan from ACKO can shield against such a health crisis and offer financial and medical support at that critical time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here’s a list of common questions and answers related to some nutritions

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What are some vitamin B12-rich foods?

One of the most common nutritional problems in India, vitamin B12 deficiency can be reduced by consuming vitamin B12-rich foods like eggs, milk, cheese, yoghurt, fortified cereals, chicken, crab, oysters, etc.

Which is one of the most prevalent nutritional problems in India?

Though there are multiple nutritional problems in India, iron deficiency anaemia, vitamin A deficiency, iodine deficiency, and protein-energy malnutrition are the most prevalent ones.

What are some ways to increase vitamin D naturally?

To combat vitamin D nutritional problems, spending some time in sunlight regularly and consuming mushrooms, egg yolks, fatty fish, and seafood is a must.

Which nutrient deficiency is responsible for causing goitre?

Goitre, one of the common nutritional problems in India, is caused by a lack of iodine in the diet.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.

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