Protein rich diet plays an imperative role in improving physical health and influencing Quality of life. Danone India, in collaboration with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), has launched the fifth edition of The Protein Week, which is celebrated annually between 24 – 30 July, to raise awareness about the importance of protein, a macronutrient which is integral to lead a healthy and active life. Danone has conducted the first of its kind survey on Quality of Life, based on a WHO QoL questionnaire and other survey tools, and was administered by a global research agency IPSOS across eight Indian cities with a sample size of 2762. The survey aimed to measure the QOL of Indian adults and assess their perception about the factors that affect their QoL namely physical health, nutrition, and particularly protein. In an exclusive interview with Financial Express Online Himanshu Bakshi, Managing Director, Danone India and Vinita Bali, Chairperson, CII National Committee on Nutrition shared their views. Excerpts:
With the launch of the 5th edition of The Protein Week, do you see any improvement in the last 5 years in Indians nutritional profile specially when it comes to protein deficiency?
Himanshu – There is a marked improvement in awareness around protein among people which is a positive sign. Our recent survey on Quality of Life (QoL) shows that over 90% of respondents felt that right nutrition, especially protein, was important for a good QoL but only 9% of the respondents were getting adequate protein in their diet. Similar trend was seen for the micronutrient intake, which is an area of concern which needs to be addressed urgently.
What is the agenda of The Protein Week this year?
Himanshu – This is the 5th year of The Protein Week and the agenda this year is to sensitize Indians to the role of protein and nutrition for a good QoL. We have been advocating about the role of protein for a healthy lifestyle. We undertook the first of its kind QoL survey based on WHOQOL questionnaire and other survey tools to assess the QoL scores for Indian adults. The survey was administered to 2760 respondents across 8 cities by IPSOS. The survey findings have been alarming, and we want to address this agenda with different stakeholders to sensitize Indians about the role of nutrition among other factors, in QoL.
Please explain the role of Danone & CII in this initiative.
Himanshu – Danone has partnered with CII and other nutrition experts for The Protein Week to create awareness about health and wellness. Our endeavor is to spread awareness about QoL and how a protein rich diet helps to improve our physical health and hence QoL. IPSOS is our research partner for administering the survey.
Vinita– With an aim to sensitize people on the role of protein in building immunity, and therefore health and wellbeing, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has partnered with Danone India for its second edition of protein week to create and increase awareness on the role of protein in the overall context of nutrition.
Can you please throw some light on the key findings of the survey and what are the various parameters used in this survey to define QoL?
Himanshu- Some of the top line findings of Quality of Life survey are-
- Nearly one out of two Indian adults had a poor quality of life (46.2%)
- Almost all (99%) respondents agreed that physical health and nutrition plays an important role in having a good QoL while nearly 98% of the study population was of the opinion that a protein-rich nutrition is important for a good Quality of Life.
- Only 9% of the respondents fulfilled the daily requirement of protein (Recommended Dietary Allowance). Similar trend has been observed for micronutrient intake.
The domains which are part of quality of life survey include-
- Physical Health which includes activities of daily living, dependence on medicinal substances and medical aids, energy and fatigue, mobility, pain and discomfort, Sleep and rest, work capacity.
- Psychological Health includes Bodily image and appearance, Negative and Positive feelings, Self-esteem, Spirituality / Religion and Personal beliefs and cognitive functions like Thinking, learning, memory, and concentration.
- Social Relationships that include your personal Relationships and Social Support.
- Environment which includes financial Freedom, physical safety and security, Health and social care, opportunities for acquiring new information and skills and Physical environment.
The Indian population, as confirmed by several surveys and studies, severely lacks protein. For instance, an IMRB study in 2017 shows that over 70% of urban Indians’ diets are protein deficient, what do you think Indian FnB industry can do to meet the protein requirements of Indians?
Himanshu: Protein is an important macronutrient that can be obtained through food supplements and a balanced diet. It has a vital role in improving our immunity, strength and mobility and hence our QoL. All stakeholders need to come together to bust myths around protein and address the gaps to ensure Indians get adequate protein in their diets. Initiatives like The Protein Week and Eat right movement by FSSAI can provide access to information. And the food industry can focus on innovations around protein food options. Given the myriad benefits to health which this nutrient brings on the table- it is high time to make it a part of public health discussions.
Vinita- Despite being an important macronutrient, Indian diets are protein deficit and the lack of awareness is concerning. The Food and beverage industry plays a pivotal role in addressing this — whether it is introducing new products, or reformulating existing products to help address this chronic nutrition burden. This also includes nutrition information on packaging and media communication, to enable consumers to make more informed choices. Several new products have been introduced recently and the pandemic has also brought to the forefront the importance of immunity and the critical role that protein plays in strengthening that. Additionally, the industry through its distribution systems also plays an important role in ensuring better access to these products.
What would you say about India’s position for nutritional access, when measured against the global scenario?
Vinita- India has a long way to go to achieve the 2030 SDG goals that it is a signatory to. India accounts for a third of the world’s malnourished children and as per the Global Health Index (2020), still lags in terms of the vital nutrition markers of stunting and wasting. Moreover, findings from the 5th National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) showed reversal of the gains on most of the indicators of nutrition in 22 states and union territories, which is a big concern. With the closure of schools and therefore no mid-day meal for approximately 120 million children, there is a further setback. India ranks 94 out of 107 countries on the Global Hunger Index 2020 and lags its neighbors like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. However, there is a lot of effort being made to distribute fortified staples through the PDS, address supplementary nutrition under MDM scheme and strengthen the ICDS programmes to tackle widespread under-nutrition. The focus of policy makers must be towards greater convergence in national and regional efforts to strengthen delivery systems through public private partnerships and enable access to affordable nutrition for all.
How important is it to talk about nutrition during these distressing times when the external environment, mental health and livelihood are of primary concern among people?
Himanshu: It is important to talk about nutrition especially in these dire circumstances when we are grappling with of COVID crisis. Nutrition is the key factor that will help to build resilience and is very much under our influence while other external factors are not.
Vinita: The current Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted an unprecedented challenge to the public health infrastructure, food systems and work life balance. Proper nutrition as well as physical activity have been compromised, impacting quality of life. Additionally, this pandemic has made people realise the value of health and the need to treat it as a priority. More people are reaching for information on nutrition and health and hence the importance of the “right information” has become even more imperative. Nutrition communication is a very important part of the solution framework. Leveraging credible sources and platforms to provide authentic information including guidance on nutrition assessment, identification of nutritional risks both symptomatic and asymptomatic, has never been more important.
Why is nutrition education an important factor for Indian consumers? How alarming is the situation in India, give us some facts to support?
Himanshu: Consumers are becoming more conscious of their food choices and this trend is encouraging as it gives us an opportunity to innovate in the Nutrition space. However, we still see a gap in protein intake as the recent QoL study indicates. Hence it is imperative that we invest in nutrition education along with stakeholders, to make consumers more aware about its role in their diet. More than 90% of the people are not aware of the right quantity of protein in the diet, or the right sources. At Danone, we have developed an Immuno-nutrient calculator to help consumers assess the key nutrients in their diet and address the gap through nutrition counselling. We have also developed the QoL calculator which is available on our website for anyone to assess their QoL score and take the right actions to improve it. Nutrition awareness is the first step in ensuring a healthy community.
How big is the challenge around nutrition during the pandemic and what are CII’s future in addressing the nutrition challenges?
Vinita- The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged existing paradigms on so many fronts, affecting quality of life and is, significantly, but silently, leading to poorer diets and therefore inadequate nutrition. CII, with nutrition as a prioritised agenda through the National Committee on Nutrition has been working across multiple sectors on initiatives like large- scale fortification with development partners and FSSAI, strengthening the supply side of fortified staples and addressing workplace nutrition through the “Impact4Nutrtion” initiative in partnership with UNICEF. This program provides basic and curated information on nutrition and healthy lifestyles to organizations for their employees and families.
Additionally, our emphasis on building public private partnerships to scale the Nutrition agenda, continues and the “Protein week” is an illustration of that – leveraging private sector innovation and delivery systems to build a resilient and healthier India.