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National Institute of Nutrition Frames New Dietary Guidelines to Better Comprehend Food Labels

"The preliminary standards have been formulated with dietary diversity and dietary goals of the Indian population in mind," said Uday Kumar, senior scientist and convenor of the NIN group that developed the guidelines.

Shivani Meena
National Institute of Nutrition
National Institute of Nutrition

Do you want to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet? You might not need to see a dietitian or nutritionist anymore. The premier nutrition research institute in the government will advise you based on scientific evidence.

The National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), situated in Hyderabad, has developed new dietary guidelines to help ordinary people understand the nutritional contents of foods like packaged foods, cereals, milk products, fruits, and vegetables.

"The goal is to have dietary suggestions written in simple language that ordinary people — not just dieticians and nutritionists — can comprehend and incorporate into their eating patterns." Our researchers have developed a set of around 16 guidelines that encompass age-specific food recommendations for the elderly, women, pregnant and lactating mothers, and adolescents, among others. "It will also help consumers understand packaging labels," adds NIN director R Hemalatha.

While the institute's researchers have completed the first version, which will be presented to the institute's director this week, it is expected to be made available for stakeholder comments over the following two months.

The rules, if finalized, are expected to be issued by PM Narendra Modi by the end of 2022 to commemorate Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, according to an official source.

"This is going to be a game-changer." For the first time, we will explain in layman's terms what the eating standards for healthy living are. "The preliminary standards have been formulated with dietary diversity and dietary goals of the Indian population in mind," said Uday Kumar, senior scientist and convenor of the NIN group that developed the guidelines.

The nutrition institute, which is part of the Indian Council of Medical Research, has evaluated over 560 samples of food that are commonly consumed in different areas of the nation against 140 nutritional parameters in order to create a database of the nutritious content of various food items. According to the experts, the new dietary suggestions are based on a food composition data base as well as estimated average nutritional requirements of people of various ages and phenotypic expression.

NIN, in cooperation with the ICMR, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, and the health ministry, will develop a separate distribution plan to promote the new rules widely via social media and other venues.

"If properly implemented, we think these guidelines have the potential to significantly reduce disease burden, namely noncommunicable illnesses that are presently very prevalent due to sedentary lifestyles and bad eating habits," Kumar added.

Among other things, the proposed new recommendations would include precise instructions on how to read and comprehend pack labelling, age-based diet suggestions, and supplementary food recipes for infants over six months.

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