MORE than a quarter of deaths among adults, 26 per cent to be precise, in Bangladesh are, as a Lancet study says, attributable to dietary risks. The Lancet research evaluated the trends in consumption of 15 dietary factors in 1990–2017 in 195 countries and found that the deaths caused by poor diets were increasing in Bangladesh, up from 13.3 per cent in 1990 to 26 per cent in 2017. The low intake of fruit topped the risk factors, followed by the low intake of vegetables, high intake of sodium, low intake of whole grains and low intake of nuts and seeds. Another recent study that the health ministry and the World Health Organisation conducted found that about 90 per cent of Bangladeshis take less than five servings of fruit and vegetables, an intake globally considered ideal. The study also found that more than 48 per cent of Bangladeshis have the unhealthy dietary behaviour of adding salt to food. Poor dietary habit is a leading cause of non-communicable diseases and 97 per cent of Bangladeshis are at the risks of such diseases. The government needs to run awareness campaigns in this regard.
The health data of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, an independent global health research centre at the University of Washington, show that malnutrition and poor diet are the top two risk factors that cause more deaths and disability in Bangladesh. What has precipitated this situation is people’s lack of access to proper diet because of their poverty. To address the issue of malnutrition and proper diet, the government needs to ensure food supply and livelihood for the masses. But a large section of the population still remains unemployed and poor as they are denied access to national resources and opportunities. The growth of the gross domestic product has never turned into tangible benefits for the majority. No matter how impressive the economic growth is, it will not lead to a proper diet for the masses unless income inequality narrows and there is an equitable distribution of national wealth. With income inequality still being in place, most of the people who live below the poverty line will not have access to healthy and balanced diet.
The government must, therefore, think about the situation on a priority basis to bring about changes in its policies, which need to be geared to remove income inequality and aim for the distribution of economic benefits based on purely egalitarian, democratic principles to resolve the problem of diet deficiency.
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