ICMR Urges Caution on Protein Supplements: Insights from India’s Dietary Guidelines

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has advised against the use of protein supplements for body mass building, emphasizing instead the importance of balanced nutrition. This recommendation is part of the revised ‘Dietary Guidelines for Indians (DGIs)’ released by the Hyderabad-based National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), aimed at addressing essential nutrient requirements and preventing non-communicable diseases (NCDs). The guidelines, developed by a committee of experts, caution against prolonged consumption of protein powders or high protein concentrates due to potential health risks such as bone mineral loss and kidney damage. Furthermore, the guidelines advocate for a diet low in sugar, with less than 5 percent of total energy intake from sugar, and emphasize the importance of a balanced diet consisting of cereals, millets, pulses, beans, meat, nuts, vegetables, fruits, and milk to meet nutritional needs. This shift in dietary focus is crucial given the prevalence of unhealthy diets contributing to a significant portion of India’s disease burden, including coronary heart disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and obesity, underscoring the importance of adopting healthy lifestyle choices and dietary habits.

The dietary guidelines also highlight the challenge of nutrient deficiencies among a substantial portion of the Indian population, particularly due to the heavy reliance on cereals in the absence of adequate access to pulses and meat. This imbalance in nutrient intake can disrupt metabolic processes and increase the risk of insulin resistance and associated disorders from an early age. In fact, the guidelines underscore that unhealthy diets are a significant contributor to India’s disease burden, with estimates indicating that over half of all diseases in the country stem from poor dietary habits.

Furthermore, the rise in consumption of highly processed foods high in sugars and fats, coupled with sedentary lifestyles and limited access to diverse foods, exacerbates the problem of micronutrient deficiencies and obesity. Recognizing these challenges, the ICMR and NIN stress the importance of promoting healthy dietary patterns and regular physical activity to mitigate the risk of chronic diseases. By adhering to these guidelines and adopting healthier lifestyle choices, individuals can significantly reduce the prevalence of conditions like coronary heart disease, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes, ultimately leading to a healthier population and fewer premature deaths.


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