It is not as if malnutrition alone is a problem faced by Indians. Even "over nutrition," among urban women especially, could pose dangers unwary pregnant women, experts warn.
Overeating by pregnant women and the rapid changes in the lifestyle are contributing significantly to "over nutrition" that is likely to have adverse impact on women during pregnancy and lactation period.
"Absence of physical activity leading to under working is leading to the problem of over nutrition among urban women," Nutrition Foundation of India director Prema Ramachandran said. She was participating in a symposium on the theme "Towards Nutrition Security" organised as part of the 95th Indian Science Congress at Visakhapatnam in southern Indian Saturday.
Dr. Ramachandran said the high proportions of under-nourished population in the country had resulted in low human development indices.
Though there was significant improvement in dietary intakes from early 1970s, the changes in lifestyle curtailed the growth in the 1990s.
Other speakers including eminent agricultural scientist M.S. Swaminathan expressed concern over the continuing problem of malnutrition that would impact productivity.
According to USAID senior adviser Rajiv Tandon, the country was losing $10 billion every year in terms of productivity due to malnutrition.
Professor Swaminathan, who is also the chairman of Coalition for Sustainable Nutrition Security in India, stressed the need for multi-pronged approach to combat the problem.
Restructuring the delivery of ongoing nutrition support programmes, universalisation of public distribution systems to tackle the increasing costs of foodgrains, introduction of food-cum-fortification approach for eliminating deficiencies and setting up of community grain banks were some of the measures that needed to be initiated at the earliest.
Enacting the Food Guarantee Act by continuing features such as use of foodgrains as currency contained in the Food for Work and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and obtaining political commitment from the parties concerned to include nutrition security in their manifestoes were among other measures that should be initiated to tackle the problem, he added.