Nature and nutrition

  • 14/01/1993
  • WHO

NEW FORMS of nutritional diseases can appear with environmental change, warns C Gopalan, former ICMR director-general. Increased use of chemical fertilisers with intensive cropping results is steadily depleting the soil of micronutrients such as sulphur, iron, manganese, zinc and cop- per. A majority of soils and crops in Andhra- Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana is reported to be deficient in zinc. These soils are also deficient in iron and manganese, but the deficiency is of less magnitude.

Zinc deficiency is noticea in rice crops grown in alkaline, wet and waterlogged soils. This could partially explain why vitamin A deficiency in rice-eating areas in eastern India and in Bangladesh is more pronounced than in the wheat-eating western and northdrn regions of India; Gopalan says preventi6n and control of iron deficiency ana emia, especially during pregnancy, becomes difficult as zincabsorption is known to be inhibited when iron is taken.

Gopalan notes some diet-related diseases have shown significant changes. Goitre, which is caused by an iodine deficiency and is traditionally prevalent in Himalayan villages, seems to have "invaded" the country's cultivated and irrigated plains in recent decades.

Research in India has already shown fluorosis became aggravated in Andhra Pradesh after the construction of the huge NagarjunasagaT dam. increased soil alkalinity, high soil levels of a heavy metal called and low levels of copper are believed to be responsible for fluorosis, which leads to serious bone deformities.

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