About the theme
Micronutrient deficiencies or ‘hidden hunger’ and the negative consequences of a diet lacking in essential vitamins and minerals/trace elements continue to pose significant public health problems in Indian populations. This hidden hunger is more prevalent in vulnerable populations, including women of reproductive age and young children and adolescents. Globally, approximately 2 billion suffer from chronic micronutrient deficiencies.
The Government of India is committed to addressing the problem of micronutrient deficiency. The vitamin A supplementation programme for children under five years of age has been running for more than a decade. However, only 60% of children under the age of five have received a dose of vitamin A in the 6 months preceding the National Family Health Survey, IV (NFHS IV). Further, the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau Technical Report of the year 2006 reveals that the overall mean vitamin A intake through food was 257mcg/CU/day, (about 42% of the recommended daily allowances (RDA) of 600mcg). This clearly shows that all age groups in India suffer from vitamin A deficiency. There is no programme yet to cover children above 5 years, pregnant women, post-partum women and adults.
Similarly, vitamin D deficiency is an emerging public health problem. Widespread vitamin D deficiency has been reported in people of all ages, in both sexes, residing in both rural and urban India. Around 80% of the population has sub-optimal serum vitamin D levels. Moreover, there is no fortification or supplementation programme for Vitamin D in India.
Repeated diet and health surveys done by the national Nutrition Monitoring Bureau (NNMB) in select Indian states indicate that:
- Cereal and pulses cover the major portion of the diet
- Indian diets are qualitatively deficient in micronutrients particularly iron, calcium, vitamin A, riboflavin and folic acid. Hence, the most common forms of micronutrient malnutrition are caused by the lack of these elements
- Vitamin D deficiency amongst all age groups is on the rise. Vitamin D deficiency in India among all age groups (includes neonates, children, adolescents, pregnant and lactating women) accounts of 30-90%
- More than 70% of pre-school children consume less than 50% recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of iron, Vitamin A and riboflavin
Food fortification is one of the simplest and most sustainable public health strategies to address the challenge of micronutrient deficiencies. Not only is it a cost-effective, scientifically proven, and globally recognised complementary approach, it also helps to easily reach wider, vulnerable populations through existing food delivery systems. What’s even better is its impact. Fortified foods help to maintain a steady body stores for vitamins and minerals, when consumed regularly.
Making fortified foods available to rural and impoverished people round the country is a primary objective at Tata Trusts. We work closely with multiple stakeholders to address micronutrient deficiencies to positively impact public health and well-being.