Don’t kill jalebis & rasgullas in nutrition overdrive

Remaining healthy is everyone’s dream. But can it be controlled by a state agency backed by suspect research that can kill delicacies of a nation boasting of as many recipes as there are households.

Standardisation has been the hallmark of globalisation, especially for gadgets, helping not only widening the market but also making life easier for the users across geographies. Can the same be done when it comes to food?

A McDonald burger or a Starbucks coffee may be great success stories of uniform taste of food for the citizens of the world, but is it remotely scientific to extend it to Jalebis and Rasgullas?

That is what the National Institute of Nutrition is on a mission to do. It has a recommended threshold for sugar content in packaged foods, including juices, cookies, cereals.

The institute’s mandate may be to come up with formulas for a healthy lifestyle, but legislating its suggestions on culinary preparations would be an overreach depriving people of their favourite delicacies.

Most of the conclusions on good and evil effects of various ingredients used in food preparation are backed by suspect research mostly backed by corporations with vested interests to promote their products or kill rival products.Research showing coffee is bad for health, and coconut oil is injurious to health are plenty. The biggest irony is the debate on diabetes.In 2018, after decades of scaremongering on diabetes, American College of Physicians released a study suggesting lowering the long-term blood sugar levels with type 2 diabetes below 7 percent may not be a good idea when it comes to health.

The American Diabetes Association immediately countered saying that lower blood sugar levels are not a problem as long as new but expensive medications are used. The catch here is that the ADA is associated with drug companies that sell diabetes drugs.

Oftentimes, vested interests fund studies by research scholars to come to predetermined conclusions to appear scientific, look no further than genetically modified plants. In many cases, statistical studies are peddled as scientific research.

In India’s case, accepting the National Institute of Nutrition’s suggestions blindly could be harmful not only for tiny businesses employing millions, but threaten the formalisation of the food processing industry focussed on domestic delicacies.

Yes, the administration has the responsibility to ensure that food is cooked in hygienic conditions but not deciding on how much sugar, salt or chillies a citizen should consume in his Halwa or puri bhaji.

Palate and practices of different regions are distinct. Take for instance sambar – the ingredients in the same preparation differ from Tamilnadu to Karnataka to Andhra to cater to the taste of people of that region. It acquires a different character when it moves to Gujarat.

Furthermore, to brand some food items as healthy and unhealthy by the content defies basic human reasoning. It’s well established that even sin goods such as alcohol and tobacco when consumed in a limited way need not be harmful. It is the excesses that harm.

Everyone has a right to a healthy life, but the activists should stay away from depriving the common man of his favourite delicacies in nutrition overdrive.


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