Rethink, Reset and Revitalise

July 5, 2021 • 10 mins read

Are India’s women eating right? Are they eating enough? What common social factors compromise women’s health? What can we do about this? Outlook talks to Dr Ranjini Datta, Nutritionist, on these critical issues.
Rethink, Reset and Revitalise

As a clinical dietetics expert, what is the biggest nutrition related health issue you see in Indian women?

Indian women face a range of nutritional problems across demographics. In villages, women are the last consumer from the family pot, her portion sizes diminished far below the recommendation – causing gross malnutrition. It’s the same story in urban slums or lowincome groups. In the urban middle or higherincome groups, malnutrition, micro-nutrient deficiency and imbalance are noted. The causes are as diverse as ‘food fad-ism’ to hectic lifestyles where the woman does not consider her health a priority.

What is the reason for this? Our genetic makeup or sociological factors?

Lifestyle factors play a huge role in disease occurrence. With women, especially in a highly patriarchal society like ours, lifestyles are less a factor of their choices than of social norms. To illustrate, the woman eating after everyone else is still a norm in most households. Unless other family members are conscious, will the woman really have what she likes to and needs to eat?

How do women take care of their health better? Are supplements a necessity?

Women in India generally don’t prioritize their health and nutrition. I therefore recommend them to opt for a holistic health supplement which takes care of their daily nutritional need. Revital H Woman is a very good option which provides holistic nutrition.

Anaemia is not taken seriously in India. Is this a serious health hazard?

Anaemia is defined as low hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a quaternary metaloprotein that helps red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. If you have anaemia, your body does not get enough oxygenrich blood which causes fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, dizziness, headaches, or even an irregular heartbeat. Mild anaemia is common and treatable. However, moderate to severe anaemia can cause severe fatigue, cardiac myopathies, gout, complications in pregnancies, small-for-date baby, anomalies, post-partum haemorrhage, renal complications and even death. Anaemia though considered a hereditary condition, is not. Families have the same dietary habits as well as the same attitudes towards women’s nutritional needs. And so, anaemia “runs in families”

Dr Ranjini Datta
Dr Ranjini Datta, Doctorate in Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics; Head of Department, Department of Clinical Dietetics and Community Nutrition, KPC Medical College and Hospital, Kolkata; Programme In Charge of Masters in Dietetics and Food Service Management, IGNOU;( Kolkata Regional centre) Scientific Advisor to Foundation for Community Support and development., WHO and Vigyan Prasar, GOI.

Women bear a disproportionate amount of the load of domestic work and not just physical. Does this uneven mental burden impact women’s health?

Women do not get adequate rest , may it be physical nor mental and are on a treadmill that cannot be switched off. Even while at rest, her mind is planning what needs to be done next. Household management is a 365 x 24 x 7 job. This is mostly thankless, leading to further stress. Feeling unappreciated, the drudgery, competing demands of work and home - all place a great burden on them.

Can nutrition help alleviate this? Please explain the mental health aspect as well.

The growing field of “nutritional psychiatry” is finding several consequences and correlations between not only what we eat, how we feel, and how we ultimately behave, but also the kinds of bacteria that live in our gut. Our brain is taking care of our voluntary and involuntary functions 24/7, even while we are asleep. Thus, our brain requires a constant supply of “ fuel” which comes from the foods — and what is in that “fuel” makes all the difference. What we eat directly affects the structure and function of our brains and, ultimately, our moods. Eating highquality foods with lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants nourishes the brain and protects it from oxidative stress — the “waste” (free radicals) produced when the body uses oxygen, which can damage cells. Unfortunately, if substances from “low-premium” fuel (from processed or refined foods) get to the brain, it has little ability to get rid of them. Diets high in refined sugars are harmful to the brain. Apart from worsening the body’s regulation of insulin, they also increase inflammation and oxidative stress. Multiple studies have found correlations between a diet high in refined sugars and impaired brain function — and also worsening of symptoms of mood disorders.

Women’s specific nutritional needs are often deemed unnecessary, even by women themselves. Can nutraceuticals and supplements help?

Hippocrates correctly emphasised, “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.” There is an increased global recognition that “nutraceuticals” play a major role in health enhancement. Nutrients are substances that have health-promoting as well as health protective activity, classified into two types : macronutrients and micronutrients. Macronutrients include protein, carbohydrate, fat, and crude fibre. Micronutrients include different minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, etc. Several chronic diseases - such as heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes and anemia – are caused or aggravated by poor dietary patterns. Appropriate use of nutraceuticals can significantly decrease their incidence. Many natural products possess multiple therapeutic properties. Some popular nutraceuticals include carotenoids, curcumin, gingerol, glucosamine, ginseng, lycopene, folic acid, cod liver oil, omega-3 eggs, calcium-enriched orange juice, green tea, etc.

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