Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food: Prof M S Swaminathan

Chennai, October 20, 2016: This was the advice of Hippocrates given as early as 370 BC. This was the theme for the Borlaug Symposium held this month at Des Moines, Iowa State, US on the occasion of the award of the World Food Prize to a group of four scientists who were involved in the biofortification of sweet potato. The biofortified sweet potato, rich in vitamin A, became an important tool for the eradication of vitamin A deficiency in the diet of the people in several countries of East Africa and Latin America. The Borlaug symposium emphasised the need for the speedy eradication of hidden hunger caused by the deficiency of micronutrients in the diet. In this connection, my proposal for establishing a global grid of genetic gardens of biofortified plants was welcomed. It is now necessary to launch an intensive and integrated programme on the elimination of hidden hunger through the propagation and consumption of biofortified crops as well as the distribution of iodized and multiple fortified salt.

 The concept of food as medicine has also been demonstrated in our country by Dr Soumya Swaminathan ( Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research) in the case of Tuberculosis. She has pointed out that malnutrition resulting in low body weight is responsible for 50% of TB in India. It also leads to a higher death rate. Obviously, a nutrition cum drug based approach is needed for eradicating TB as well as several other important diseases like HIV/AIDS and Leprosy.