Health Writers’ Conference turns spotlight on artificial sweeteners

December 6, 2019 0 By FM

Artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes are marketed around the world after extensive regulatory examination and are safe for consumption; mosquito coils used in millions of households and smoke from agarbattis when inhaled constantly on a daily basis are the biggest hazards for the respiratory system; medical gadgets have made the work of doctors more effective and less hazardous than ever before — These are some of the main takeaways from the 7th National Health Writers Convention held in the National Capital Region (NCR) on September 26-28, 2019.

The gathering was organized by the HEAL Foundation with the objective of fostering an exchange of thoughts and ideas among nearly 80 health journalists and editors from across India and from publications in various Indian languages. In addition, the conference also saw participation of about 50 health professionals,  including senior clinicians, healthcare industry professionals, nutritionists and practitioners of ayurveda and other medical disciplines. 

Dr Swadeep Shrivastava, founder of HEAL and the key force behind the convention, expressed the hope that in the coming years, it would continue to provide a platform for the growing number of health journalists to exchange notes and experiences. He recalled that the 1st Health Writers Convention had just 10-15 delegates and that the gathering has come a long way since then.  

Low-calorie sweeteners safe

In the course of a panel discussion on low-calorie sweeteners, Dr Rebecca Lopez-Garcia, a toxicologist and regulatory consultant based in Canada, observed thv at artificial sweeteners and other food additives were tested more stringently than pharmacological products. Participating via videoconferencing, Dr Lopez-Garcia pointed out that this was necessary because food additives would be used by the entire family, while the consumption of medicines is more restricted.

Other speakers, including Dr Bhuvaneshwari Shankar, Senior Consultant Clinical Dietician, Apollo Hospitals; Dr Sandhya Pandey, Head Clinical Nutrition, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, and Manjari Chandra, Consultant – Nutrition, Max Multi-Specialty Hospital, also said that the low calorie sweeteners were extensively tested and therefore could be considered safe. 

C H Unnikrishnan, Founder and Editor of Future Medicine Monthly magazine was the moderator for the panel discussion. 

In a separate, well-received presentation, celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor made the point that the feeling of sweetness comes from several sources such as carbohydrates and fats, but sugar was the easiest to substitute. He also remarked that most sugar substitutes were 150 to 600 times sweeter than sugar.

COPD: Bigger threat

Another interesting lecture by Professor Sundeep Salvi of Chest Research Foundation, Pune, educated the delegates about the serious problem of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), which he said was a bigger killer than HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and diabetes mellitus put together. He also said indoor pollution from sources such as mosquito coils, open wood-fired cooking stoves and agarbattis used at the time of pujas and other ceremonies were unnoticed causes of indoor pollution that wreaked havoc on the entire family.

As a part of the conference, the 3rd Ayushman Bharat Summit was held in the form of a discussion moderated by KG Suresh, former Director General, Indian Institute of Mass Communications. This was intended to mark the 1st anniversary of the world’s largest public health scheme. The discussion revolved around how the Ayushman Bharat scheme could be made more
inclusive and effective. It was also decided that the proceedings of the summit, along with suggestions made by the convention delegates, would be compiled as a white paper and submitted to the union government.

Dr Harit Chaturvedi, Chairman, Max Institute of Oncology and Director, Surgical Oncology at Max Healthcare remarked that a lot of secondary
care cases were being handled on account of the Ayushman Bharat scheme. A lot of nursing homes had now been empanelled with the scheme, while in the field of tertiary care, a fair number of issues were still unresolved.