India’s changing appetite throws up meaty issues

Updated 07 February 2013
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India’s changing appetite throws up meaty issues

With German sausages, French duck delicacies and homegrown chicken, Francis Menezes is cashing in on the growing appetite for meat among Indians — even in one of Mumbai’s most strictly vegetarian areas.
In the upmarket neighborhood of Malabar Hill, numerous shops, restaurants and even some apartment blocks remain meat-free.
But Menezes, co-manager of the Cafe Ridge food store, says he does a brisk trade in “non-veg,” especially with those who have studied abroad.
“The new generation are cool with eating anything,” he said.
India’s booming middle-class is driving the demand for meat in a country with a traditionally low intake — a survey in 2006 showed that 40 percent of the population were vegetarian.
Fish and meat have long been part of other Indians’ diets but for many they used to be a rarity, said Arvind Singhal, chairman of the consumer consultancy group Technopak Advisers.
“With rising disposable incomes, meat consumption is increasing,” he told AFP. “Before meat would have been seen as for a special occasion.”
Members of the Jain faith and some groups within India’s majority Hindu religion hold vegetarianism as an ideal. Father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi espoused a meat-free diet as part of his non-violent philosophy.
But fewer of the younger generation appear to feel the same.
Despite coming from a “hardcore veg” Hindu community, Ishita Manek is an enthusiastic member of the Mumbai Meat Marathon, a group that gets together every weekend to try out protein-heavy dishes.
“It’s just to do with the country progressing. The mindset is changing and no one really sticks to traditional values anymore,” she said, although she admitted her mother dislikes her love of beef, a taboo under Hinduism.
There are no recent figures on overall meat consumption, but the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in 2007 put India’s per capita intake at 5.0 to 5.5kg — the country’s highest since records began, with further increases expected.
With chicken a favorite meat, the rapid rise of the domestic poultry market is a good indication of changing diets.
Currently worth an estimated $ 9 billion, it is growing at an annual rate of 20 percent, driven by broiler meat, according to Technopak.
Farm manager Vijay Sakhrani turned to the broiler business back in 1982 with 2,000 chickens. He now rears more than 800,000 a year as a contract farmer for Indian poultry giant Venky’s.
“You have self-employment, you require a small space. In a small space you can do a lot of business,” he told AFP in Koregaon Mul village, 30 kms from western Pune city, where he said numerous other farmers had followed his foray into poultry.
Venky’s general manager Vijay Tijare described a “chicken revolution” going on in India and one, he believes, that can supply the need for economical protein among the nation’s 1.2 billion people.
The company’s thriving fortunes enabled it fund the takeover of the leading English football club Blackburn Rovers three years ago.
With a median age of 26.5, India’s calorie needs are set to grow faster than the population, but the domestic supply of vegetable proteins has not kept up with demand and India is now the biggest importer of pulses.
Others see mass-produced meat as only doing damage to middle-class diets, especially when cooked at the growing number of fast-food joints. While malnutrition is wide-scale among India’s poor, an estimated 63 million in the country had diabetes in 2012.
“Industrial meat is adding to the crisis in health,” said food security analyst Sangita Sharma.
“Consumers are oblivious as to what is going on their plates.”
Changing consumption patterns also threaten to exacerbate the country’s environmental pressures.
India is the world’s top buffalo meat exporter, despite the beef taboo, and the leading emitter of greenhouse gas methane from livestock, according to a report from the New York-based think tank Brighter Green last year.
Citing water scarcity and intense strains on land, the group said it was crucial for India to promote plant-based diets and prioritise less resource-intensive industries than livestock.
“With 500 million cows, buffalo, goats, sheep, camels and billions of chickens, 600 million farmers and 1.2 billion people, the competition is on in India for natural resources,” said its report.
Singhal too expressed concerns, especially the challenge thrown up in diverting grains to animal feed, which critics say takes food away from the poorest members of society.
He said one way to ease the pressures was to think beyond India’s traditional desire for self-sufficiency.
He criticized a ban on poultry imports from the United States, despite the fact that chicken legs are popular in India but often go to waste in America. The ban is purportedly to prevent bird flu but has been challenged by Washington as disguised trade restrictions.
India’s per capita meat consumption for now remains well below the Asian average, but with its population due to become the world’s largest in coming years, analysts are calling for greater attention to how its food is produced.
“India needs to realize it is not a vegetarian country,” Singhal said.


Take a healthy approach to the issue of nutritional supplements

Updated 21 April 2018
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Take a healthy approach to the issue of nutritional supplements

JEDDAH: There is a growing need for dietary supplements in Saudi Arabia, given the increasing popularity of junk food and the effective role supplements can play in treating diseases caused by mineral and vitamin deficiencies.

A recent study found that 22 percent of Saudi people take nutritional supplements. It is no surprise, then, that many Saudi businesses have forged partnerships with international dietary-supplement companies.

Dr. Rowaidah Idriss, a Saudi dietitian with a Ph.D. in nutrition, said dietary supplements can be defined as substances that provide the human body with a nutrient missing from a person’s regular diet. However, she stressed that they are not intended to replace healthy eating.

She also warned against taking them without first talking to a doctor or dietitian, as some products can have side effects, especially if taken before surgery or with other medicines. 

“They can also cause problems if someone has a history of certain health issues,” she added.

A blood test can determine which nutrients we are not getting enough of in our diet, and therefore which supplements might be beneficial. Nutritional supplements are also used to help treat certain health conditions. 

“Vitamin C, for example, is often used to reduce cold symptoms,” said Idriss. “Fish oil is taken to lower elevated blood triglycerides.”

She suggested four daily essentials that can bridge nutritional gaps in our diet: a multivitamin, vitamin D, calcium and omega-3 fatty acids. 

“I routinely recommend a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement to my clients after consulting with their doctors,” she said. 

“For menstruating women, who require 18 milligrams of iron each day, a daily supplement helps boost iron intake.”

She said people over the age of 50 are advised to take a multivitamin to ensure they are getting enough B12, which plays a key role in the functioning of the nervous system and the development of red blood cells. 

“Older adults are more vulnerable to B12 deficiency because they are more likely to have decreased production of stomach acid, which is needed to release B12 from the proteins in food.” said Idriss. 

“It is also a good idea to take a daily multivitamin if one is following a low-calorie diet.”

She also pointed out that a high intake of DHA and EPA, the two omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil, are linked with a lower risk of heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. A deficiency of DHA might also increase the risk of Alzheimer’s. 

“A daily intake of 1,000 milligrams of both DHA and EPA is equivalent to eating 12 ounces of salmon a week,” said Idriss.

The dietitian believes that the Saudis who take food supplements often do so more to benefit their appearance than their health. 

“Saudi women consume more dietary supplements than other people in Saudi Arabia,” she said. 

“They do so either to lose weight or to care for their hair and nails. Bodybuilders also take large amounts of supplements.”

However, both groups, according to Idriss, tend to take supplements on the recommendation of friends and trainers, not doctors. 

She warned that commercials and social-media rumors can persuade people to buy supplements online that may not be approved as safe by the Saudi Food and Drug Authority, and advised people to get as much of their daily nutrient needs as possible from healthy eating.

Dr. Rowaidah Idriss

“Along with vitamins and minerals, a healthy diet provides fiber and hundreds of protective phytochemicals, something a supplement cannot do,” she said, adding that the body absorbs natural food more effectively than supplements.

In addition, combining supplements with medications can have dangerous, even life-threatening, effects. 

“Drugs for heart disease and depression, treatments for organ transplants, and birth-control pills are less effective when taken with herbal supplements,” she said.

“Taking an anticoagulant, aspirin, and a vitamin E supplement together may increase the potential for internal bleeding or even stroke.”

 

Natural sources

With the spread of fast-food restaurants and their alluring ads, the long-term health of the Saudi people is in danger, as children and young people snub natural sources of nutrients, such as fruit and vegetables. 

“This can lead to many deficiency diseases. Moreover, vegetarians can develop similar illnesses due to the absence of meat in their diet,” she said.
Dr. Ashraf Ameer, a family-medicine consultant, said the importance of nutritional supplements lies in treating mineral and vitamin deficiency, especially for pregnant women, growing children, diabetics, people with chronic diseases, and the elderly. 

“However, these products should come from reliable companies and meet Saudi food and drug requirements,”he added.

Mohammed Yaseen, who has a food supplements business, said his company works with a leading British health-care company to provide the Saudi market with high quality products.

“With this we hope we can contribute to the national transformation program by raising private-sector spending in health care from 25 percent to 35 percent, which in turn would lead to the sector’s financial sustainability and boost economic and social development in the Kingdom,” Yaseen said.

Decoder

Vitamin Terms

DHA stands for docosahexaenoic acid. EPA stands for eicosapentaenoic acid.  Phytochemical is a biologically active compound found in plants.