Nutrition Transition in India: Challenges in Achieving Global Targets

  • P Ramachandran
  • K Kalaivani
Keywords: Nutrition


In 1947, when India became independent, the country was not self-sufficient in food production; over three-quarters of the
population were poor, food insecure, under-nourished and often ill; the life expectancy at birth was 33 years. The country
invested in planned development, utilized technology and human resources as change agents to hasten nutrition and health
transition and improve “quality of life” of the citizens.
Seven decades later, India is the fastest growing economy. The country is self-sufficient in food production and is likely to
achieve SDG target of being self-sufficient in producing all food stuffs needed for optimal nutrition till 2030. The National
Food Security Act will protect the poor and vulnerable segments against adverse consequences of food inflation. There has
been reduction in morbidity due to infections and life expectancy has more than doubled.
There has been a steady decline in under-nutrition; less than one fifth of the 0-18 year group are wasted. But one fourth of
the women in 19-29 years age group are thin; early detection and appropriate management will improve nutritional status
of the mothers and birth weights of the offspring.
In India, over 80% of the 0-18 year group and over 60% of adults are normally nourished. Every effort should be made to
ensure that they continue to have appropriate life style, dietary practices and physical activity, and remain normally
nourished throughout their lives.
Over the last two decades, over-nutrition has emerged as a problem: 5% of under-five children, over 20% adults; and over
30% of older urban women are over-nourished. This is mainly because of steep reduction in physical activity. Overnourished
adults are at risk of NCDs; NCDs are asymptomatic. NCD management requires life-style modification and lifelong
medication. India’s nutrition and health system has to re-orient and gear itself up for successfully ensuring prevention,
early detection and effective management of dual nutrition and disease burden.


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