India is one of the youngest and fastest growing economies in the world. Despite that, there are certain areas where we are still lacking and these are the aspects that can really stagnate India’s pace of growth. According to a report by the World Bank, India is still the highest-ranked countries in the world in terms of taking care of malnourished children.
Malnutrition is caused by a deficiency of micronutrients like iodine, iron, vitamin A, folate, and zinc. A Biotech engineer from Karnataka, Mahesh RV started researching on this topic when he was in his final year of engineering at the PES Institute of Technology, Bengaluru.
Alarming Number Of Malnutritioned Children Disturbed Mahesh
The budding engineer said, “I wanted to do my dissertation in forensic science, and while researching the topics I came across the issue of malnourishment. Back in 2009, the headlines said that 42 percent of all children in India was malnutritioned which was a national shame. It was very disturbing since it was a silent killer and not everyone was aware of it.”
At that time, Mahesh found about blue-green algae called Spirulina that is often recommended as a dietary supplement to cover malnutrition. He says, “As per the World Health Organisation, even though micronutrients are needed in minuscule proportion they play a magical role and their absence is disastrous.”
To understand this process further, Mahesh took up the research opportunity with Mysuru premier food research institute, Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI). During his research, Mahesh found out that the nutrients provided by 1 gram of spirulina are equivalent to 1 kilo of fruits and vegetables which is why it is also given to astronauts in space stations.
Mahesh Aims To Improve Child & Maternal Health
Immediately after completing his studies, Mahesh launched Spirulina Foundation through which he started growing Spirulina. The 29-year-old engineer says, “The focus of our organization is on child and maternal health. We work to eliminate malnourishment by bringing in behavioral change and nutritional interventions by working at the grassroots level in alliance with public and private sectors, research institutes, etc.”
Spirulina grows both in saltwater and freshwater and its one single tablespoon dried powder (approx 7 grams) contains vitamin B1 (Thiamine), vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B3 (Niacin), proteins, iron, and copper. It is also rich in magnesium, potassium, manganese and almost most of the nutrients in a small amount.
It is easy to grow Spirulina with the photosynthesis process and does not require any fertilizer and pesticides. Apart from fighting malnourishment, the cyanobacteria also control diabetes, anemia, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
Mahesh says, “Spirulina is natural, hygienic and cost-effective. People are ready to pop a pill every time there is a health problem, but they will not replace it with spirulina due to lack of awareness about its benefits.”
He further adds, “In the last decade, consumption of pulses have significantly come down and intake of carbs has increased. Spirulina is also recommended for people who are fit and healthy.”
It Is Free For Malnourished Children
Mahesh grows 1.5 tonnes of Spirulina and charges Rs.300 for 120 tablets that last for one month. However, to malnourished children, he offers them for free. Mahesh says, “One gram of spirulina every day for three months is enough to fight malnourishment. A daily intake of 2 grams is recommended.”
In the last nine years, Mahesh has made an impact on 1.5 lakh children and helped around 20,000 pregnant and lactating women from Karnataka get the right balance of nutrition.
Growing Spirulina is not expensive and does not require much space. It is possible to grow this blue-green algae variety even in an aquarium. (Source: The Better India)