‘Keto, vegan diets are not balanced’

NIN director says institute recommends a diet from diverse locally available sources

Ketogenic and vegan diets do not satisfy the balanced nutrition requirements of people and the Indian Council of Medical Research — National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) does not recommend it, said its director R. Hemalatha.

Responding to a question after delivering the ‘Prof. M. Viswanathan Gold Medal Oration’ on the topic ‘How India should eat,’ she said the keto diet focused on high consumption of fat and may not be good for health in the long run.

Similarly, she said those following a vegan diet will lack the necessary vitamin B12 and amino acids. “They may resort to vitamin B12 supplements. However, it may be difficult to get amino acids,” she said.

Highlighting that NIN recommended a balanced diet from diverse and locally available sources, Dr. Hemalatha said it ideally included milk and occasional consumption of meat.

Stressing on the need for a balanced diet, she said that while some people resorted to a high-protein diet for building muscles, the proteins will be processed and utilised properly by the body only if it was taken along with carbohydrates and fats.

She said that though available data on the dietary practice of Indians may indicate that the consumption of carbohydrates, fats and proteins were neither alarmingly high nor low, their source of these nutrients were not varied and right.

For instance, she highlighted that majority of carbohydrates came from refined rice and other cereals. She said that ideally it should come from mixed sources, particularly fruits and vegetables.

Stating that Indians were increasingly consuming more HFSS food (High in fat, salt and sugar) that will aggravate the country’s already huge burden of non-communicable diseases, she argued that policy interventions were needed to change this trend. “Unhealthy, non-essential, highly processed food are easily available and intensively marketed as opposed to healthy food,” she said. She added that the food industry must be held accountable for producing and marketing healthier food.

She said that COVID-19 has brought a renewed interest among large sections of the public to eat healthy. “We get a lot of queries these days. This situation must be used to create awareness.” she said.

Vijay Viswanathan, head and chief diabetologist, M.V. Hospital for Diabetes, spoke on a study conducted by his institute that showed that majority of the people with diabetes had managed to adhere to their diet regulations amidst the pandemic.

S.N. Narasingan, dean, Teaching and Research, Prof M. Viswanathan Diabetes Research Centre, highlighted the need for government intervention in avoiding trans-fatty acids.


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