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Notes from the history of SCIVU
(Science Council of IVU)

From The British Vegetarian, Jan/Feb, 1969:

INDIA'S FOOD PROBLEM

Members of the Vegetarian Nutritional Research Centre and of S.C.I.V.U. were privileged to hear a lecture on this subject from Dr. Rajalakshimi of the M.S. University, Baroda, India. The lecture took place on November 14 [1968], at the Queen Elizabeth College, London, by courtesy of Professor John Yudkin, and had been organised by the V.N.R.C. with the support of S.C.I.V.U. The meeting was presided over by the Centre's Research Director, Dr. Frank Wokes.

Dr. Rajalakshimi's lecture gave a most encouraging account of the efforts which she and her colleagues at the University are devoting to the urgent problems of securing adequate food for India's population. These problems are aggravated by the fact that a very large proportion of the people (about 70%) have incomes well below a normal subsistence level so that adequate food supplies must be made available at very low cost.

The lecturer assessed the essential nutritional values of a range of foods in relation to the practical problems of providing an adequate and inexpensive diet in palatable form to the inhabitants of a backward village community in the Gujarat.

There were widespread dietary deficiencies in calories, proteins, mineral, calcium, and vitamins A and B2 (riboflavin). The maximum effort had therefore been devoted to assessing the nutritional values of traditional crops and indigenous plants. An adequate supply of calories could be obtained from the "poor man's Horlicks" roasted and ground germinating grain; and of proteins by the blending together of cereals, with legumes and pulses, which would correct a lysine deficiency in the cereal protein. Dark green leafy vegetables had been found to be a rich source of carotene, and vitamin A requirements could be obtained from about 2 ozs. per day. Sprouting vegetables and a number of fermented plant foods, such as Dhokla, could provide a sufficiency of vitamin B2, and the latter could also provide calcium when the fermented acid foods were partially neutralised with lime. All these foods had been thoroughly assessed under controlled laboratory conditions and their introduction into a varied and attractive dietary during the village trials under the personal supervision of Dr. Rajalakshimi, had resulted in a substantial improvement in the clinical status of the school children. It was of considerable interest that the acceptance of new foods was greatest when the educational programme, which was a vital factor in the project, included both the children and their parents. The lecturer was also able to secure a substantial advance in standards of hygiene at the same time.

The lecture was well illustrated by numerous slides of which one series showed the village and its inhabitants at the time of the trials, and various questions were answered with competence and understanding. Dr. Alan Long thanked the speaker for a most informative and first-hand account, and complimented her for her outstanding ability not only to cope with the scientific problems of food, but also the very human problems which arise when new ideas are being introduced, and for which her training as a psychologist had proved invaluable. It was invigorating to have heard a direct account of her contribution towards a realistic solution of a very pressing problem, and encouraging to note that the Government of India were recognising the importance of her work.

Dr. Rajalakshimi is contributing a series of articles to the new journal Plant Foods in Human Nutrition, and the first of these jointly with Dr. C. V. Ramakrishnan, is appearing in the second issue. This important series is awaited with keen interest and anticipation. - J.W.L.