After 11 years, nutrition institute plans to revise dietary guidelines
India is revising dietary guidelines after 11 years that will recommend what to eat to maintain a healthy diet, including for the first time an entire chapter on ways to reduce intake of salt, fat and sugar, according to people familiar with the matter.
The guidelines, which are updated every 10 years or so, should be ready in the next two-three months, they said. The current guidelines were released in 2011.
“These guidelines have different goals. You can call it a handbook that will, in the simplest way, explain everything that healthy persons from different population groups need to know about what to eat and what not to eat, and also how to eat, to maximise the intake of nutrients in food that they eat based on what is required for that population group,” said R Hemalatha, director, National Institute of Nutrition in Hyderabad.
The institute, which is working on the guidelines, is one of some 30 institutes run under the Indian Council of Medical Research involved in public health and nutritional issues.
There are about 15 reference points in the revised guidelines that will cover all population groups from six months onwards that include children, adolescents, pregnant women, lactating mothers, the elderly, and so on.
The reference points pivot around a balanced diet — how to make food safe; need for more food for adolescents; moderate salt and sugar intake; reading food labels properly and what to look for in them; and what the nutritional needs are in old age, among pregnant women, etc.
“The handbook will talk about both the quality and quantity of as many as 11 food groups such as fruits, vegetables, cereals, pulses, legumes, etc., that are seen on one’s plate,” said Hemalatha. “A balanced diet is important for a person’s healthy growth as we already are facing issues pertaining to not just malnutrition, but also obesity in our population. Therefore, it is important for people to know what are the right things to eat that would benefit them in the long run.”
“The revision is required because nutritional scenario undergoes changes as the data undergoes changes over time. Now more people are leading a sedentary lifestyle that requires a certain kind of nutritional and calorie intake, for example, which needs to be kept under consideration while proposing changes in the guidelines,” said Uday Kumar, convener of the group that is formulating the guidelines at the institute.
The guidelines are revised based on changes in nutritional recommendations by experts and expert bodies both globally and domestically. It requires going through a lot of updated data, say experts working on the project.
After at least 20 meetings that have taken place with experts working on it, the first draft of the updated guidelines is nearly ready, and after being reviewed through internal consultations that should take a week or so, it will be put out for public feedback in about two to three months from now.
However, following the guidelines after they are released for mass consumption will be voluntary, as these are advisory in nature.
“These are not mandatory. Therefore, we intend to conduct lots of workshops to generate awareness about eating healthy among the masses,” said Hemalatha.