Concerns of Unhealthy Diet: A Cause of Non-Communicable Disease! Guest Blogger Dr. Mohan Lal Jangwal

Since the dawn of globalization, our society has seen numerous changes. Urbanization, change of lifestyle, change in occupational environment and new dietary habits are some to be counted. Some of these were beneficial, while others have had adverse effects on our health. For example, unhealthy lifestyles are a major cause of disease and mortality, leading to an important aspect of human life. Changes in dietary habits, however, lead the list of the changes that have adversely affected human health. The reasons for this change in dietary practice are changing economic policies and an influx of migrants from rural to urban settings. Also, more people are now using more sedentary means of transport. When all of these changes come together; they cause an inevitable shift in diet. This change is from traditional whole foods to market-based foods like fast food, junk food and processed food. This change of nutrition pattern is leading to a hidden epidemic of non-communicable diseases (NCDs).

Previously, families ate meals three times daily, comprised mostly of the traditional wheat flour, rice, pulses and vegetables. These types of food are whole foods, which are closer to their natural forms. These provided most of the required nutrients in the past. But cultural liberalism has led to an increase in non-vegetarian diets and the proliferation of fast food outlets. As a result, groups of population following such ways of life are becoming overweight.

Every effect has its own cause, and when public health experts try to trace out the root cause of the present scenario, the research takes us thousands of years back in history, to a time period when the Aryan population first settled in northern India, in Punjab. They were the pioneers of using animals for farming, and they used tools for growing food. As the soil was fertile in this region, grain production was abundant, and this availability of food products allowed them to feed animals. These animals in return supplied milk and meat. So the settlers had access to both vegetarian and non-vegetarian foods—namely dairy-dughd (milk), ghrit (ghee) and dadhi (curd), shak (leafy green vegetables) and a variety of grains—which supplied them with sufficient energy for hard physical work in the fields and in their day-to-day activities. So this cycle of eating nutrient-rich food and utilizing it by working hard became a part and parcel of their daily lives, and the problem of over-nutrition was less prevalent. This way of life continued for centuries, and even today, the staple food of this region is grain (wheat), and vegetables are consumed along with them.
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