While COVID-19 continues rattling individuals, institutions, and entire nations, there are still plenty of other health issues we need to be aware of. A recent survey by a protein advocacy group has revealed some disturbing trends in India.
Earlier this week, Right To Protein, a nationwide public health awareness initiative, released the findings of a study by research agency Nielsen that surveyed 2,142 mothers across 16 Indian cities.
The findings revealed a poor understanding of protein as a macronutrient, and showing that Indians, in general, consume inadequate levels of proteins.
The study notes that while 95 per cent of the mothers surveyed claim to know that protein is a macronutrient, only 3 per cent of the population actually understands the vital functions of protein and why it should be consumed daily.
A total of 82 per cent mothers residing in metros and Tier II cities including Ahmedabad, Bengaluru and Hyderabad were unable to correctly associate protein with its functions and attributed low importance to its consumption as a part of balanced meals.
Eight out of 10 mothers believe protein is ‘important’, but protein is not adequately included in their daily diet.
Ninety-one per cent mothers are not able to relate to protein with its crucial functions such as repair of tissues in the body, muscle health and long-term immunity.
This underlying ‘protein paradox’, which is how the study refers to high importance vis-a-vis low understanding, could ultimately become a major factor in the gradually declining rate of quality protein consumption.
Mothers from India’s metros, cities and towns are perceived to have differing food preferences, but their distorted understanding of protein has a seemingly shared attribute, impacting the quality and quantity of protein intake.
“In our country, adequate protein consumption is an under-debated issue when it comes to general discourse on food and nutrients. Very few published studies provide insights about the consumption patterns about this ‘major building block’ of our lives.
"This study therefore offers an insight into highlighting our knowledge gaps and misconceptions that plague adequate protein consumption”, says Dr Jagmeet Madan, a nutritionist who is the Professor, Principal, Sir Vithaldas Thackersey College of Home Science (Autonomous) SNDTWU, Mumbai, and National President, Indian Dietetic Association.
Dr Suresh Itapu, Nutraceutical Expert, and Director, NutriTech India, said, “The Protein Paradox study, reiterates the importance of building a general protein understanding and awareness in India. Any individual or entity can benefit from these insights and take corrective measures to improve quality protein intake, course-correct and eventually reverse the decline in protein consumption, especially among kids.”
The study hopes to set the ground for protein conversations, highlight areas for action such as mass education and initiatives around protein accessibility, that help lead the way to accelerate reduction in protein deficiency in India.
Over 70 per cent Indian mothers strongly believe in common myths such as ‘protein is difficult to digest’, ‘it leads to weight gain’, and ‘it is only for body-builders’.
A total of 85 per cent mothers incorrectly believe that protein leads to ‘weight gain’ and mentioned they would prioritise the consumption of vitamins and carbohydrates over protein for their families including for children.
Most disturbingly, nearly 80 per cent hold the view that lack of protein does not impact overall health.