NIN through its 100 years of existence has contributed to nutrition science and policy in the country. The following are some of them:
i. Early studies on nutrient deficiency disorders: The studies on parboiled and milled rice helped to explain the incidence of beriberi among rice eaters in the east coast of Andhra region where milled rice was consumed largely and no incidence in Madras where parboiled rice was consumed more.
ii. Stomatitis associated with the deficiency of B group of vitamins, particularly riboflavin, was described for the first time in India, and a treatment with yeast and skimmed milk was found to be effective.
iii. The Institute was also the first to describe a clinical condition called 'burning feet syndrome', which was found to be due to vitamin B deficiency, and prescribed its treatment with vitamin B (pantothenic acid).
iv. Nutritive values of Indian foods: One of the important contributions of NIN has been the assessment of nutritive values of commonly consumed Indian foods. This was first taken up in 1935 and was completed in two years. The Nutritive Value of Indian Foods and Planning of Satisfactory Diets was published in 1937, which turned out to be a very popular contribution. Apart from this, the nutritive values of fruits and vegetables were also determined during 1960s. This publication was thoroughly revised and rewritten with data obtained after updating some methods of nutrient estimation and was published as 'Nutritive Value of Indian Foods' in 1970s. More recently, the database profiling the nutritive values of Indian foods has been readied in 2017. The new 'Indian Food Composition Tables (IFCT) 2017 is the compilation of nutritional information on 151 discrete food components for 528 key foods.
v. Formulation of recommended dietary allowances (RDAs): The first recommendations on Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) were made for the Indian context in 1944. Later, the RDAs were modified in the early 1960s, and then in the early 1970s, 1980, 1991 and last in 2010. These are the recommendations of how much of the nutrients should be ideally consumed by people of different age and physiological groups based on their activity
vi. Dietary guidelines for Indians: A manual with information on the key practicable points for diets and physical activity for Indians to ensure optimal health and freedom from disease was proposed for the first time in 1998. In 2011, after the RDAs were revised and the guidelines were redrafted, the revised version was released.
vii. Studies on protein-energy malnutrition (PEM): Detailed studies have been undertaken on the dietary intakes and the biochemical status of children manifesting different forms of malnutrition with a view to understand the common aetiological background. The institutes research paved way for a new hypothesis that malnutrition among underprivileged children was due to energy deficiency and not solely due to protein deficiency.
viii. Contribution to national programmes and policies: NIN provides nutrient requirements for national programmes aimed at vulnerable groups. NIN carried out nutritional assessment surveys on individuals as well as on families, covering different age groups and different socio-economic groups. NIN’s public health nutrition reports have been used by nutritionists, epidemiologists, policymakers and more so by the Planning Commission. NIN’s research was also the basis for the Government of India in the 1970s, to launch a supplementary feeding programme to provide 300 Kcal/day to improve the nutritional status of children in rural areas and in urban slums, which was operated under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS).
ix. Contribution to the National Prophylaxis Programme against nutritional blindness due to vitamin A deficiency: During the 1960s, after some preliminary clinical trials, the effect of oral administration of a large dose of vitamin A on serum vitamin A of 2500 children was studied. Based on this study outcome, the NIN recommended administration of 200,000 IU each to children at six-monthly intervals to avoid immediate toxic manifestations and for providing effective and consistent cover against vitamin A deficiency (VAD). This paved the way for a nationwide vitamin A prophylaxis programme with its inclusion in the Fourth Five-year plan in 1969. Based on the recommendations of the NIN, it became a national programme and is being implemented throughout India.
x. Supplementation of iron and folic acid to pregnant women: NIN recommended that a programme of iron folate supplementation be taken up for pregnant women and preschool children as a prophylactic measure. The government introduced the National Nutritional Anaemia Prophylaxis Programme aimed at pregnant women and young children in 1970.
xi. Operational research to strengthen nutrition programmes: The Institute carried out operational research studies on Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) to assess its impact on the nutritional status of children, including process and input evaluation. The study results helped in strengthening of the programme and subsequently, it was expanded in all the villages by universalizing ICDS services.
xii. Development of Nutrition Surveillance System (NSS): In order to promote effective functioning of ICDS and nutritional well-being of the beneficiaries, the NIN developed 'AAA' (triple A) approach covering Assessment, Analysis and Action involving the entire ICDS mechanism from the grassroots level to the supervisory level. This involved 'Assessment' of health and nutritional status on a continuous basis amongst vulnerable population groups, identifying area-specific determinants (Analysis) of nutrition problems and food insecurity and integrating various departments to take appropriate 'Action' in the prevention and control of undernutrition.
xiii. Regular nutritional surveys: The National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau (NNMB) under NIN carried out regular surveys in 10 to 16 States and generated a dynamic database on diet and nutritional status of the communities. Many surveys were regularly conducted among rural, tribal and urban populations. The most recent survey was the 'Diet and nutritional status of urban population in India and prevalence of obesity, hypertension, diabetes and hyperlipidaemia in urban men and women' released in 2017
xiv. Balamrutham: NIN in collaboration with State governments has developed micronutrient-fortified (iron, folic acid, B1, B2, B12, niacin, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium) take-home ration called Balamrutham for 6-36 month old children, which is being implemented in all districts of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. Earlier, the integrated State of Andhra Pradesh used to provide Modified Therapeutic Food (MTF) to children (aged 6-35 months) under Supplementary Nutrition Programme of ICDS. The NIN conducted a study comparing the new ready-to-eat (RTE) formulation with the existing MTF and proved that it was a superior food supplement. This led to the introduction of Balamrutham, which reached the mothers and caregivers of over 10 lakh children in Telangana State.
xv. Food safety and toxicology: Studies on food toxins explored some major areas such as neurolathyrism, aflatoxicosis, argemone toxicity and epidemic dropsy and erucic acid toxicity in edible oil. Significant contributions have been made by the Institute in identifying the nature of the toxic factors and in providing solutions for prevention and control.
xvi. Investigations on epidemic dropsy: In 1998, epidemic dropsy was reported from several States such as West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa (now Odisha), Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Delhi and Maharashtra, mainly due to consumption of food cooked in argemone oil mixed with mustard oil. The NIN carried out a study on epidemic dropsy prevalent in the areas of State of Madhya Pradesh and recommended to the government to stop the unauthorised use of adulterated oil. Selective cultivation of yellow mustard, strict enforcement of regulation and exemplary punishment to unscrupulous traders were followed as preventive measures.
xvii. Knowledge, attitude, belief and practice (KABP) study on food safety: NIN spearheaded the knowledge, attitude, belief and practice study on food safety in 2005-06 which was conducted among households and other stakeholders such as doctors, regulators and teachers in 28 States of the country.
xviii. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs): Most recently, in 2017, the NIN has generated data on the prevalence of overweight/obesity and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in urban and rural areas from 16 States of India. The urban survey alone covered as many as 1, 71, 928 individuals from over 52,500 households of 1097 wards of 16 States.
xix. Fenugreek seeds in the management of diabetes: It was found out that fenugreek seeds could improve the glucose tolerance and ameliorate other symptoms of diabetes mellitus (type 2). It was reported that the mechanism of action of fenugreek seeds on improving glucose tolerance in diabetes was due to improvement in glucose utilization at the cellular level.
xx. Research on edible oils: In the 1980s when there was a concern about the inadequate production of edible oil in India, the Government of India's policy of looking at promoting the use of unconventional edible oils got attention. Systematic studies on the nutritional quality and safety evaluations of unconventional edible oils such as rice bran oil were carried out at the NIN.
xxi. Recommended use of multiple oils: The relative role of n-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in regulating the plasma profile was studied, and the desirable ratio of these fatty acids in Indian diets was worked out. Based on these studies, it was advocated to blend or use a combination of oils to reap the benefits of n-3 and n-6 fatty acid form of different oils. NIN recommended the use of more than one oil as diverse sources of oils confer the additional advantage of providing a variety of minor components (present in non-glyceride fraction of oils).
xxii. Health effects of trans fats: The health effects of dietary trans fatty acids present in the partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (vanaspati) were investigated. Studies showed that compared to saturated fats, trans fats present in vansaspati decreased the insulin sensitivity to a greater extent. Considering the detrimental effects of trans fatty acids, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) fixed the norms for trans fatty acid content of vanaspati, limiting to 10 per cent, and proposes to bring it down to five per cent and to two per cent or lesser than that in the next couple of years.
xxiii. Outreach and human resource development: The Extension and Training Division of NIN organised several training programmes for various categories of personnel. Many scientific, semi-scientific and popular publications have been brought out by this Division and made available to the public for disseminating the results of NIN research. Further, nutrition education and communication research has established the usefulness of various media and methods including folk art forms, classroom-based education and computer-aided education for disseminating nutrition messages in different settings.
xxiv. Training programmes/courses: Two systematic training programmes for medical college faculty and public health personnel were initiated to impart training in the current concepts of nutritional science and their application for promoting public health. One was the 12 wk Post Graduate Certificate Course (started in 1963) and the other is the nine-month MSc (Applied Nutrition) Postgraduate Programme (initiated in 1968). The World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also sponsored many candidates to take part in these training courses annually. In place of the nine-month M. Sc. (Applied Nutrition) Postgraduate Programme in 2004 and in its place, a two-year master's programme was introduced in 2009. In 2018, with the support from the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, an MSc Programme in Sports Nutrition was initiated.
xxv. Double-fortified salt (DFS): NIN's research efforts focused on developing a technology for double fortification of salt with both iodine and iron to combat both IDD and iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) led to the development of a successful formula after exploring several stabilizers to ensure the stability of iodine on storage, no discolouration and bioavailability of both micronutrients when taken with food. The technology of DFS has been transferred to the industry. The NIN also contributed to the preparation of the regulatory specifications for FSSAI for DFS.
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