When food is your medicine, is there an ideal formula for nutrition?

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As India faces increasing incidence of lifestyle-related diseases, there’s a case for nutrition based on human genetics

When 30-year-old techie Supriya Nair did the annual round of medical tests, the usual suspects showed up in the results: vitamin, protein and zinc deficiencies, and lopsided cholestrol levels that could eventually affect the heart.

Medicines were prescribed for each of the deficiencies. She bought vitamin supplements that ran virtually the entire gamut of alphabets, and fish oil capsules.

But when she repeated the tests after six months, the deficiencies persisted. Her good cholestrol (HDL) was still low and the bad one (LDL) high. This could have been from bad lifestyle practices or improper compliance in taking the medicines. She was confused.

However, Rajesh Mahadevan, a doctor with 25 years’ clinical experience and an entrepreneur from suburban Bengaluru who runs a nutrition centre, claims to be able to fix such problems through a comprehensive analysis of the root cause of the disease: understanding family and individual histories and prescribing a tailor-made nutrition regimen.

Hippocrates said it is more important to know what sort of person has a disease than to know what sort of disease a person has, says Mahadevan. Preventive nutrition supplements, he reasons, are better than treating an illness.

A specialist geriatrician and physician, Mahadevan earned his stripes from the David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA. His venture, Shree Mathru Lifecare Diagnostic Centre, has a full complement of nutritionists offering nutrition counselling.

The centre is emblazoned with food and calorie charts that focus on nutrients made out of natural extracts to suit the individual.

Prescriptions based on routine diagnostic tests will not work, says Mahadevan. Paying attention to the root of the problem does. DNA differs from individual to individual, and understanding this is key to success and is the future of all treatments, he argues passionately.

Natural remedies

“Natural extracts mimic most allopathic molecules and, when taken in the required dosage, give the same desired result with minimum or no side effect. And its absorption, assimilation and retention and curing properties are far superior, he says.

Mahadevan has developed formulations for general health for different age groups, and based on gender, complete with clinical tests and with ingredients approved by food and drug authorities, he says. The clinical findings have been certified by experts who helped conduct the studies. These products are not tested on animals, he adds.

He has started his patenting work in India and will soon also work on worldwide patents. Two of his formulations have been produced and sold by a pharma giant in India, he says. Having cobbled together ₹3.5 crore from friends and other funding sources, Mahadevan is now looking to raise $5 million.

However, nutritionist Priyanka R points out, “Nutrition-based products are more like trial and error: if it works, it’s good; if not, tough luck.” There are not sufficient clinical trials to cover India's 1.3 billion people. And industry watchers say sufficient research has not been done on the Indian gene, and so identifying the ideal nutrition can be tough. Which explains why Supriya continues to search for that ideal medicine for her health problems.

Published on September 15, 2017
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