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«PFNDAI Bulletin April 2009 Editorial Staying healthy is extremely important in today’s context as medical care has become very expensive and is ...»

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PFNDAI Bulletin April 2009


Staying healthy is extremely important in today’s context as medical care has become

very expensive and is getting even more expensive. Public health care centres/hospitals

are going down in standards as there is too much pressure on their resources. Private ones

are highly commercially oriented so middle class will find it very difficult to get cure

even with such insurance as medi-care etc.

Thus it is imperative that prevention is better that cure, so we must try to stay healthy.

One way is choosing better diet such as good quality protein, good fats containing proper amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 fats, better carbohydrates from whole grains, fruits and vegetables and vitamins and minerals from a variety of foods that would also provide phytochemicals essential for health.

Thus a good diet with reduced salt, sugar and fat would contribute to good health but by itself will not ensure staying healthy. There is another aspect that has become extremely important in today’s context and that is physical activity.

People especially in cities are increasing getting less physically active as time and luxury are becoming more important especially in urban surroundings. With small cars becoming more affordable and government apathy towards mass transit, more and more people are going to have their own vehicles either two- or four wheelers and will not only have very little physical activity by way of walking to and from bus or railway stations, climbing stairs etc. but also will be experiencing a lot of pollution and stress of road traffic.

Getting regular exercise is one of the best things one can do for attaining good health besides not smoking. Exercise lowers risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, hypertension, osteoporosis, and certain cancers. Plus, it helps control weight, help control stress, and also gives a boost to mood.

The best part of it is it does not need any elaborate training to see good health gains. Half an hour walk at least five days a week is all that is needed by most people and is easily achievable. Besides walking, any amount of exercise is better than none and will give further health benefits.

If one can have 20 minutes of more vigorous activity such as jogging, step aerobics and some sports like badminton, tennis, table tennis etc. three days a week will add benefits enormously. However, the senior citizens should mostly stick to walking briskly and not attempt any more vigorous activity unless under expert supervision and or advice.

Exercise can be made more enjoyable with a friend so each one can also motivate the other along with making the whole exercise a pleasurable event. One can also find time in a busy day’s schedule by walking up a stair rather than taking a lift. Taking short breaks and walks around if one has a desk job. Even part of the lunch time can be utilised to take a short walk or working out if there are gym facilities available.

Combination of healthy diet and physical activity goes a long way in ensuring staying healthy. Some people also go for picnics and treks on holidays and weekends with their families and friends. Combining activity with pleasure will make staying healthy more enjoyable.

Wishing you all a very healthy diet and physical activity, Dr. Jagadish S. Pai Executive Director executivedirector@pfndai.org

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“The concept that foods can have a third function in addition to a primary role in providing essential nutrients and a secondary need for desirable organoleptic qualities has become well established.This third property or function of food is its role in the prevention of human health”.

Consumers worldwide are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their food choices, & are routinely demanding more from foods than a calorie quota and a balance of protein, carbohydrate and fats.In Particular, educated consumers now demand extra health related benefits from their foods. This increased awareness of the physiological activities of food components, and their role in our well-being has heralded the introduction of a large number of health foods; for the past five years, approximately 10% of all new foods introduced have made reference to health. Examples include cholesterol lowering margarines, hypoallergenic rice, low phosphorus milk and probiotic fermented milk.

However, in addition to these new healthier functional foods, there has also been increased interest in the potential heath benefits associated with ordinary every day food items. In this short article, a selection of potential protective effects of food is presented, & some of the chemical components in these foods, which have particular health related physiological activities, are described.

In the table below (Table I), foods with protective benefits are listed along side the disease or diseases against which they are effective.

Table I: Foods with protective effects against disease(s).

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NB: A few words of caution must be introduced to accompany the above table. Many of the associations between foods & health are either preliminary findings, or have been proven in animal or cell culture studies, but not in humans. Additionally, foods can confer risks as well as benefits, and excessive consumption of given category of foods is not recommended.

Physiological activity of specific food components.


Isoflavone phytooestrogens, which protect against atherosclerosis & cancer, are found principally in soybeans & processed soy products; the major Isoflavones are Genistein & Diadzein. Examples of Phytooestrogen - containing soy products include soy sauce, tofu, soy milk, soy based textured vegetable protein. Phytooestrogens are thought to act by modulating Oestrogen metabolism, binding to Oestrogen receptors but without stimulating cell division. In this manner, they are acting as anti-Oestrogen, possibly in similar fashion to the drug tamoxifen. Cardio protective effects of Phytooestrogens have been linked to increased production of low density lipoprotein (LDL) receptors in liver, thereby lowering rates of LDL oxidation. Soybean Isoflavones also have anti-oxidant activities which may contribute to the protective effects of Soy foods by protecting against oxidative damage implicated in many diseased states. Unfortunately, Phytooestrogen may also cause infertility in some animals, & their influence on reproductive hormones in infants has been questioned.


Brussels sprouts and other members of Brassica family (Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower) are thought to act as preventive agents against degenerative diseases such as Cancer & Coronary Heart Disease(CHD).Two important mechanisms by which these vegetables exert their effects as anti carcinogens may be anti oxidant potential and altered biotransformation capacity; these protective mechanism were investigated in humans in short term intervention studies. Results suggested that detoxification enzymes were introduced and a decrease in the rate of oxidative DNA damage occurred upon consumption of Brussels sprouts. These effects were attributed to the presence of Glucosinolates.

FLAVONOIDS Flavonoids, a group of polyphenolic compounds common in plants, are believed to protect against cancer and cardiovascular diseases. The major types of Flavonoids ( Flavonols, Flavones, Flavanones) are found in fruits & vegetables, and Catechins are found in green & black teas.The main dietary source of flavonoids are tea, onions, apple & wine. The protective effect of Flavonoids are thought to be due to inhibition of LDL oxidation although the mechanism of this inhibitory effect is unclear, Flavonoids may be acting as free radical scavengers, metal chelators or protectants which inhibit oxidation of endogenous vitamin E.


Atleast epidemiological studies correlate a high intake of beta-carotene rich foods with reduced risk of developing cancer, particularly lung cancer. Other carotenoids have also been shown to reduce cancer risks, including Canthaxanthin, which can induce apoptosis in tumour cells; Astaxanthin in enriched egg yolk, which can have anti-carcinogenic effect; and Lycopene, a major carotenoid in tomatoes & processed tomato products, which is associated with reduced risk of several forms of cancer.Carotenoids have antioxidant activities ; Lycopene & beta carotene also have hypocholesetrolaemic activities.

ACE inhibitors.

Angiotensin converting enzymes (ACE; EC is a controlling factor for blood pressure, being involved in vasoconstriction of peripheral blood system. ACE inhibitors are therefore antihypertensives. Their physiological action leads to decrease in blood pressure. ACE inhibitors are mainly peptides, formed during hydrolysis of proteinaceous foods such as milk, fermented whey beverages & other dairy products, squid and some cereals and legumes. Cocoa beans, polyphenols & tea tannins also have ACE inhibitor effects Organosulphur compounds.

Organic sulphur compounds are present in Garlic and other Allium species such as onions, & leaks. These flovour compounds also have anti-carcinogenic properties. One possible mechanism through which these sulphur compounds act is via induction of detoxifying enzymes such as NAD(P)H: quinine oxidoreductase & Glutathione transferase. In combination with mustard oil, garlic has also been reported to have anticlastogenic effects; this was attributed to the fatty acids in mustard oil, in combination with the organic sulphur compounds in garlic, which together acted as strong radical scavengers. Other physiological activities attributed to Allium organosulphur compounds include their ability to lower blood lipid & cholesterol levels, induced anti platelet aggregation & fibrinolytic activities, & act as immunostimulants, enhancing leukocyte, Lymphocyte & macrophage levels & natural killer cell functions.

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Blogs are an important and growing source of information for the general public and should be used to convey food safety messages and inform consumers.

Communications with consumers must evolve to reach a new generation of food handlers.

Producers, processors and retailers are now realizing the necessity of this evolution. There are several toll-free talk-lines that help consumers clear their doubts on various issues, by providing useful instructions and guidelines.

Many web chats and Blogs have been hosted by seasoned home economists (York, 2008).

These channels must be used to provide food safety messages to food handlers in such a way that it is utilized and appreciated by them. According to a study, the fastest growing resource of health information for Americans now, is the Internet. Particularly Blogs are growing tremendously in popularity and are becoming useful sources of information. These should be used for the distribution of food safety information.

What is a Blog?

They were first known as Web Logs. They are Internet spaces in which authors comment and give their personal opinion on issues, events and ideas and also allow for interaction and creation of new ideas. Blogs were, in the past, seen as web sites having commentthreads and links to other web sites. Now, they mostly consist of personal comments on non-personal things. They create an emotional connection between the information and the readers making Blogging a very popular and unique experience.

The other reason for their increasing popularity is due to the availability of user-friendly software that enables users to create and maintain their own Blogs. The value of Internet indexing is another factor. The one problem with Blogging is that anyone can post any information without having any credentials, which allows the sharing of unverified claims and information. Nevertheless, Blogs are mostly used to give out evidence-based, analyzed information and to start a conversation with readers.

History and evolution of Blogs

The first Web site that could be considered to be a Blog was created in 1992. Then in 1997 the term Web log was coined. Two years after this, all personal Web sites were called Blogs. www.blogger.com was the first free public Blogging service, launched in 1999. It provided simple Blog creation tools that led to a rapid rise in their usage. Their growing popularity led to Google releasing a search engine in 2004, which was blog specific.

Blogs are now a form of communication for our present “Internet generation” that has grown up using the Internet. Students use it to learn and share information and ideas etc.

Some, health Web sites like WebMD have Blogs that have been written by medical professionals on topics of common interest, e.g. pregnancy, asthma etc. Blogs written by non-professionals are mainly on personal experiences.

Such topics of common interest attract consumers due to the “emotional connection” that is formed and felt. It has been said, however that despite the connection, information on Blogs related to health queries should not be used as a substitute for a visit to a qualified healthcare center. In South Korea, bloggers used their opinion sharing against some unverified information, which resulted in the resignation of several members of the president’s cabinet. Small every-day issues can very easily become major political topics, through Blogs. They act as a medium for public debate, which affects both the media and politics.

Food safety Blogs

A lot of people these days rely on the Internet for food safety instructions. Outbreaks of recent food borne illness have also increased the usage of Blogs. Hence producers, retailers, processors and regulators of agricultural commodities must pay more attention to the numerous networking sites, which lets individuals act as their own media outlet.

Research done on health and its related behaviours has shown that one usually makes rational decisions about such behaviours, when they have sufficient knowledge of the subject and are aware of the risks associated with it.

In order to encourage safe-food handling and reduce food borne illness, new safety food messages and mediums should be tried and evaluated. Producers, regulators etc. should start acquainting themselves with internet-based media, if they wish to be pro-active.

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