Speakers at a global report launch call for adopting healthy diets
Rice millers in Bangladesh over polish the grain thereby emptying out the essential micronutrients of the staple. And Bangladeshis, who mostly eat rice-centric diets, partly as result of the country’s low agricultural diversity, get deprived of healthy food.
Dietary diversity is low in Bangladesh compared to other countries at a similar stage of economic development.
Experts at the launch event of an internationally commissioned report on healthy diets on Wednesday said these emphasizing on reorienting Bangladesh’s food system to focus on supplying food to providing high-quality diets for all.
“Unhealthy and unsustainably produced food is a risk to Bangladesh and the broader world we live in. The food system is Bangladesh is focused on increasing food availability and maintaining rice self-sufficiency,” observed Dr Akhter Ahmed, Country Representative of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
IFPRI and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) organized the launch ceremony of the ‘EAT-Lancet Commission Report’ on healthy diets, at a city hotel.
The EAT-Lancet Commission is an unprecedented collaborative effort, bringing together 37 of the world’s foremost experts to set scientific targets for a healthy diet from sustainable food systems – delivering for both people and planet. The report was published in The Lancet medical journal on January 16, 2019 and will be presented throughout more than 35 launch events across the world.
The Lancet is a weekly peer-reviewed medical journal, among the world's oldest, most prestigious, and best known general medical journals. EAT is a non-profit organization working towards a fair and sustainable food system for healthy people and planet – leaving no one behind. The Commission delivered the first full scientific review of what constitutes a healthy diet from a sustainable food system, and which actions can support and speed up food system transformation.
The report called for a transformation to healthy diets by 2050, which the Commission said, would require substantial dietary shifts. This includes a more than doubling in the consumption of healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts, and a greater than 50 percent reduction in global consumption of less healthy foods such as added sugars and red meat.
Dr Akhter Ahmed said, “There is a rise of over nutrition and obesity, driven in part by unacceptably high levels of sugar-sweetened beverages and fats consumed. This situation is setting the stage for a future pandemic of non-communicable diseases that we are already seeing erupting in other parts of the world.”
The report made a fervent call for shifting from meat, sugar and fat-based foods to plant-based diets for the sake of a future healthy generation in this planet.
Khairul Bashar, Country Manager of Harvest Plus that promotes bio-fortified crops, said rice eaters in the country are being deprived of micronutrients as millers and traders making hefty profits out of over-polished grains.
Polished rice refers to rice which is milled to remove the husk, bran, germ, and varying amounts of the nutrients contained in them, leaving a starch-rich grain. In contrast, rice from which the husk has been removed but with the bran partly or fully left intact is also consumed in many pockets, and this is referred to as unpolished rice or brown rice.
Polished rice has less moisture, mineral, biotin, niacin, protein and fatty content than brown or lightly milled rice.
Dr Nazneen Ahmed, a senior research fellow at Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) referred to recent studies that show up to 9% rice is lost in post-harvest stage in want of swift and efficient transportation from field to market.
Chair of the session, Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman, urged for protecting the environment – rivers and lands – from degradation, pollution otherwise, the challenge of growing safe food would be greater. He said Bangladesh’s agriculture is extraordinarily water-inefficient and kitchen markets are mostly unclean.
GAIN Country Director Dr Rudaba Khondker said some 820 million people in the world still go to bed hungry and one in three people are malnourished.
Norwegian ambassador in Bangladesh Sidsel Bleken, Brac University teacher Dr Kaosar Afsana, FAO Senior Nutritionist Dr Lalita Bhattacharjee, climate expert Dr Saleemul Huq, Health Ministry joint secretary Dr Md Ruhul Amin Talukder also spoke at the program.