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The burden of chronic diseases is rapidly increasing worldwide. Over the past decades, there has been a great decline in the physical activity level of individuals particularly those who are engaged in information technology related occupations. Socio-economic development over the last 40-50 years has resulted in a dramatic change in lifestyle from traditional to modern, leading to physical inactivity due to technological advancement, affluence leading to consumption of diets rich in fat, sugar and calories and a high level of mental stress. Altered lifestyles (unhealthy diets and physical inactivity) have contributed to the increase in the prevalence of chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases. While standards of living have improved, food availability has expanded and become more diversified and access to services has increased, there have also been significant negative consequences in terms of inappropriate dietary pattern, decreased physical activities and a corresponding increase in diet-related chronic diseases.
Dr. Priya Sharma stated that young professionals in the Information Technology (IT) sector are also involved in sedentary work of 7 to 12 hours per day. The IT companies have sedentary setting for many professionals and also a place where access to energy-dense food and beverages is common. This sedentary lifestyle leads to many health disorders like cardiovascular diseases, obesity and others. The professionals in the IT sector are at nutrition and health risk. Such professionals in the companies with ample access to energy-rich foods and low physical levels are at increased risk of becoming overweight or obese. Dr. Sharma also noted that study of working conditions and worker overweight or obesity have shown associations between greater body mass index (BMI) and long work hours, shift work and job stress. The adoption of lifestyle with increased availability of energy dense food, inclination towards carbonated drinks, junk foods such as pizzas, burgers etc. coupled with sedentary mode of life has increased the prevalence of obesity among adults which has detrimental effect on their health.
Dr. Sharma further mentioned that a number of studies have been conducted on nutrition interests and health needs in different populations, such as adolescent girls, young women and many others, but there have been few studies among young adults from software professionals, who are potential target group for nutrition education. Therefore, in this paper nutrition education lessons were given to a group of IT professionals with the purpose of increasing their nutrition knowledge and ultimately changing behavior. Topics that were covered in each lesson were relevant to the IT professionals. Dr. Sharma identified the content under each areas of the digital nutrition education material as summarized below:
1.Balanced diet and classification of foods based on their functions.
A balanced diet is defined as one which contains the various groups of foodstuffs such as energy yielding foods, body building foods and protective foods in the correct proportions so that an individual is assured of obtaining the minimum nutrient requirements. The components of a balanced diet differ according to age, sex, physical activity, economic status and the physiological state such as pregnancy, lactation etc.
Points to be considered for planning a balanced diet:
Ideally each meal should consist of all the five food groups.
Whole grain cereals and whole pulses give higher nutritive value.
It is better to include more than one cereal like wheat, rice and maize.
Use wheat flour along with bran (fibre).
Inclusion of salads (fruits and vegetables) in daily diet help in meeting the vitamin, mineral and fiber requirements.
It is better to consume whole fruit rather than juice. Daily diet should contain atleast one medium size fruit.
2.Therapeutic information on obesity, diabetes mellitus and hypertension.
Tips to reduce these chronic health issues:
High fibre low calorie foods should be included in diet i.e. green leafy vegetables, fruits, salads, whole cereal grains and pulses.
4-5 servings of fruits / vegetables should be included daily in the diet.
Sweet, fried and junk foods should be avoided.
Aerated drinks should be avoided.
Take small meals at intervals of 2-3 hours instead of 3 big meals.
Drink water in plenty and in between meals.
Meals should not be skipped.
Do not starve if you are hungry.
Skimmed milk should be used in diet.
Regular brisk walks for minimum half an hour should be an essential part of daily routine.
Choose a variety of foods & small frequent meals.
Use a combination of whole grains, grams and greens.
Prefer fresh vegetables and fruits in plenty.
Adults should choose low-fat, protein-rich foods such as lean meat, fish, pulses and low-fat milk.
Carbonated beverages should be avoided.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
3.Importance of physical exercises and dietary guidelines.
Most software persons lead sedentary lives. A low calorie diet accompanied by moderate exercise will be effective in causing weight loss. Aerobic exercise directly increases the daily energy expenditure and is partially useful for long term weight maintenance. Exercise will also help to preserve lean body mass.
In this paper, the identified areas for development of CD-Rom included balanced diet, classification of foods based on their functions, nutritional significance of nutrients, therapeutic information and importance of physical exercises. The study reflects that nutrition and health related messages incorporated in the digital nutrition education material successfully transmitted to the target group of adults.
The paper was truly successful in planning the development of educational interventions not only to improve the nutrition knowledge but also change in the attitudes related to food, nutrition and health issues.
Dr. Priya Sharma, PhD, Department of Food and Nutrition, PAU, Ludhiana, India.
A paper about the study appeared recently in: