Dr. Rajendran Ananthan, a scientist from the Indian Council of Medical Research’s National Institute of Nutrition (ICMR-NIN) discussed the above during the second episode of this year’s Nutrachampion podcast.
One of Dr Ananthan’s research priorities is studying the nutrition benefits of millets, which used to be a staple in the Indian diet decades ago.
Notably, his review on millets was one of the top 10 most read science and nutrition research stories on NutraIngredients-Asia last year.
The review pointed out that the consumption of millets has shown to reduce total cholesterol and lower body mass index (BMI), as compared to other food staples such as rice, wheat, and quinoa.
India sees itself at the forefront of popularising millets and is doing so on the international stage.
In fact, this year was declared as the International Year of the Millet by the United Nations (UN) – an initiative put forth by the Indian government.
“The UN has declared year 2023 as the International Year of the Millet, mainstreaming millets into the regular food habits. Therefore, we are all working together to bring back millets into our mainstream food habit,” Dr. Ananthan said.
Aside from millets, Dr. Ananthan is involved in an upcoming first-of-its-kind research project in India known as Diet and Biomarkers Survey in India (DABS-I).
It will play a crucial role in understanding the macro and micronutrition status of the Indian population, especially individuals from different socio-economic status, with the aim of improving the population’s nutrient intake.
“That means we are going to study the dietary intake, the pattern of the dietary intake, and collecting the biological sample to study the biomarker and collecting the cooked food samples at the household level for comprehensive nutritive profiling.
“This will give a lot of significant outcomes among the nutrition status or the health status of our country. This is the first kind of study which we are going to initiate,” he said.
The project is expected to be completed within two years.
Prior to this, Dr. Ananthan was also involved in another major project known as the Indian Food Composition Table (IFCT), where studied the nutrition constituents of about 550 commonly consumed foods across the country.
“The ICMR-NIN is responsible for developing the food composition table for India…In 2017, we listed down the latest food composition table, which consists of 550 commonly consumed foods. We have developed a comprehensive nutritive profile for all these foods.”
In the case of millets, he also believes that there is an opportunity to develop it into a nutraceutical given its antioxidative and polyphenolic content.
“We have done a lot of research on understanding the polyphenolic components and the antioxidative potential of various foods, including the millets.
“We have clearly seen that there are many polyphenolic profiles, not only the total polyphenols, but the individual polyphenolic components also, which are very rich in the whole seeded millets,” he said.
Listen to the podcast to find out more.