MANY southeast Asian countries, including India, have been able to control several nutritional diseases such as kwashiorkor, beriberi and pellagra.
Kwashiorkor, a form of malnutrition caused by protein deficiency, is especially prevalent among children. Pellagra, a disease caused by a deficiency of vitamins found in milk, liver and yeast, is characterised by the skin cracking and often results in insanity. Osteomalacia, or softening of the bones, is often caused by a defi6ency of vitamin D and calcium and was once fairly widespread in north, India. Former ICMR director-general C Gopalan confirms kwashiorkor has viritually been eliminated in India and there are indications that both pellagra and oste6malacia have significantly declined.
Beriberi, which causes inflammation of the nerves, results from a deficiency of vitamin B1, and used to be widespread on the east coast of India and in Myanmar (Burma), Thailand and the Philippines. In a report prepared for the World Health Organisation, Gopalan reports the disease and fulminant forms of vitamin B complex deficiency "have now ceased to be important" and are no more a major public health problem.
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