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India’s crippling second wave of Covid-19 may be getting all of the attention now, but we mustn’t overlook the silent but deadly killer that has emerged as the leading cause of death over the last two decades.
More than 5.8 million Indians die every year from Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) such as cancer, diabetes, uncontrolled hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases.
Most of these deadly diseases, although hard to treat, can be prevented by modifying diets and supporting a healthier, sustainable food system. As is the case with other developing economies, there has been a significant boom in the consumption of packaged foods, usually high in sugar, salt, and bad fats, even in the rural areas and across all socio-economic groups.
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With this boom, it becomes critical to more strictly regulate the three harmful ingredients that are rampant in packaged foods and are fuelling the NCD crisis.
Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI) along with the Nutrition Advocacy in Public Interest (NAPi), Epidemiological Foundation of India (EFI), and Pediatrics and Adolescent Nutrition Society (PAN) organized a webinar to discuss the importance of a strong Nutrient Profile Model (NPM) to guide consumption of processed and ultra-processed food in India.
Leading global experts, doctors and senior scientists discussed the need for a consensus particularly in light of obstacles such as opposition from the food industry. Brazil, Mexico, and South Africa, by adopting scientific thresholds for these ingredients -salt, sugar, and fats – have taken decisive steps to safeguard their population, especially children. Nutrient profiling is a scientific method for categorizing food and beverage items according to their nutritional composition. It is developed with the key goals of reducing consumption of sodium, saturated fat, and added sugar.
Nutrition profile models (NPM) translate these broad goals into specific food and beverage targets and helps us to identify and differentiate foods that are unhealthy (high in salt, sugar, and/or saturated fats). Based on the “cut off” established by the NPM, the front-of-pack label informs consumers in a fast and straightforward way whether a product contains excessive sugar, sodium, and saturated fat, helping them make a healthier choice. At the same time, NPM can guide the ban on promotion and marketing, especially directed to children and adolescents.
Stressing on the importance of acting swiftly but not deviating from the science that informs the setting of these thresholds, global expert Professor Carlos A. Monteiro, Professor of Nutrition and Public Health at the School of Public Health, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, and who heads the Center for Epidemiological Studies in Health and Nutrition, said, “NPMs are frameworks developed after much research and field-level studies by the WHO and experts from all over the world.”
Prof Monteiro who was instrumental in developing the NOVA classification and the NPM model for Latin America considered a best practice in grouping processed food, further added, “The WHO SEARO model was put together in consultation with member countries in the region and is perfectly aligned to the Codex Alimentarius or food code. Simply put, there has never been a better time for India to announce and mandate these limits in packaged foods and beverages. Concerned about the growing levels of obesity, Brazil imposed medically proven thresholds and mandated our food industry to comply. It is high time that India should do the same.
Slowly but surely, over the last few decades, ultra-processed food is taking over the dietary preferences and buying decisions of consumers in India. Analysis of sales data reveals that per capita sales of ultra-processed foods grew from about 2 Kg in 2005, to about 6kg in 2019 and is projected to grow to about 8 kg by 2024. Similarly, ultra-processed beverages are up from 2 L in 2005 to about 6.5 L in 2019 and are projected to be about 10 L in 2024.
Dr. Arun Gupta, Convenor, Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI) warned that this exponential growth of the “junk” or processed food industry has left an indelible mark on the health of Indians. “We are now the obesity and diabetes epicenter of the world. Cancer rates are growing at an alarming pace. Younger people are at risk of heart disease. The ongoing pandemic has demonstrated beyond any doubt, the debilitating role that comorbidities have played in Covid-19 fatalities. An NPM that can adequately distinguish between healthy and unhealthy foods can guide all food and nutrition regulatory policies, particularly related to correctly identifying foods with excessive amounts of potentially harmful nutrients such as sugar, fats, and sodium, and help people make good food choices during these challenging times”
The path to adopting scientific limits on these anti-nutrients will not be easy, warns Mr. Keshav Desiraju, former Health Secretary of India. “Regulators and policymakers must lay down mandatory thresholds which are within the limits as prescribed by WHO. As these will apply across the board, we can be sure that the entire market will adapt to meet the new standards. The industry is used to making profits and will not comply unless our food and beverage regulators make it mandatory.”
Experts believe that a simple Nutrient Profile Model with single nutrient thresholds for two categories – food and beverages, works best. The single threshold nutrient profile model has been the most effective solution for implementing and monitoring the front of package label policy (FOPL). Countries such as Chile, Israel, and Mexico with robust FOPL policies have adapted models with a single nutrient threshold.
Emphasizing the need for a scientific yet simple approach, Prof. H.P.S. Sachdev said, “To protect the health of our future generations and to reverse the worrying trends of obesity and other NCDs, we have to arm people, including children with information regarding the high concentration of salt, sugar, and fats in all packaged foods. Hence a science-based NPM leading the way to a simple warning label should be our immediate priority”.
In 2018 the Food Safety Standards Authority India (FSSAI) published a draft regulation for FOPL which was subsequently withdrawn for further deliberation. In 2019 December, FSSAI delinked FOPL from general labeling regulations and is currently seeking consultations with civil society, industry, and nutrition experts for a viable model for India. Extensive research regarding the appropriate cut-offs’ for nutrients of concern has already taken place, including a recent study by the National Institute of Nutrition which corroborates the limits on salt, sugar, and fats set by WHO. (IANS/KB)
(NCD, Non-Communicable Diseases, NCD facts, the emerging crisis: NCDs, priority actions for the NCD crisis, what is Nutrient Profile Model )
As robots evolve to do more work around us, the UK-based humanoid robot manufacturer Engineered Arts has infused more human-like facial expressions into one of its robots, which may leave you with an eerie feeling.
In a video posted on YouTube, the robot called 'Ameca' displays various human expressions, like appearing to "wake up" from sleep, as its face shows confusion and frustration when it opens its eyes.
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Once awake, 'Ameca' starts looking at its hands and arms, opens its mouth and raises its eyebrows, just like a human does.
At the end of the video, Ameca smiles and holds a welcoming hand out towards the viewer.
According to Engineered Arts, the humanoid bot is currently unable to walk and it is working towards giving it the ability in the near future.
"Designed specifically as a platform for development into future robotics technologies, 'Ameca' is the perfect humanoid robot platform for human-robot interaction," says the company.
The 'Ameca' hardware is a development based on its own research into humanoid robotics and built on its advanced 'Mesmer' technology.
Ameca' on display at the CES 2022 conference in Las Vegas in the US in January.Unsplash
Also read: NASA humanoid robot dances to technology
Engineered Arts is slated to put 'Ameca' on display at the CES 2022 conference in Las Vegas in the US in January.
"Human-like Artificial Intelligence needs a human-like artificial body. Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning systems can be tested and developed on Ameca alongside our powerful 'Tritium' robot operating system," the company posted on its website. (IANS/PR)
(Keywords: Humanoid Robot, Ameca, Technology)
Microsoft has disrupted the activities of a China-based hacking group, gaining control of the malicious websites the group used to attack organisations in the US and 28 other countries around the world.
The Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) said in a statement that a federal court in Virginia granted its request to seize websites of the hacking group called 'Nickel', enabling the company to cut off Nickel's access to its victims and prevent the websites from being used to execute attacks.
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"We believe these attacks were largely being used for intelligence gathering from government agencies, think tanks and human rights organisations," said Tom Burt, Corporate Vice President, Customer Security and Trust at Microsoft.
Obtaining control of the malicious websites and redirecting traffic from those sites to Microsoft's secure servers will help the company protect existing and future victims while learning more about Nickel's activities.
Also Read : Fortnite : A Gold Mine for Hackers
"Our disruption will not prevent Nickel from continuing other hacking activities, but we do believe we have removed a key piece of the infrastructure the group has been relying on for this latest wave of attacks," Burt said late on Monday.
To date, in 24 lawsuits - five against nation-state actors -- Microsoft has taken down more than 10,000 malicious websites used by cybercriminals and nearly 600 sites used by nation-state actors.
"We have also successfully blocked the registration of 600,000 sites to get ahead of criminal actors that planned to use them maliciously in the future," the tech giant informed.
"We believe these attacks were largely being used for intelligence gathering from government agencies, think tanks and human rights organisations."Unsplash
In some observed activity, Nickel malware used exploits targeting unpatched on-premises Exchange Server and SharePoint systems.
"However, we have not observed any new vulnerabilities in Microsoft products as part of these attacks. Microsoft has created unique signatures to detect and protect from known Nickel activity through our security products, like Microsoft 365 Defender," the company noted.
Nickel has targeted organisations in both the private and public sectors, including diplomatic organisations and ministries of foreign affairs in North America, Central America, South America, the Caribbean, Europe and Africa. (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : hacking, China, Microsoft, website, victim, intelligence, attack, malicious, traffic, server, company, disruption, lawsuits, cybercriminals, vulnerability.)
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Chip manufacturer MediaTek on Monday announced that it is focused on making 2022 a year aimed at rapid growth, business success, substantial expansion in Research and Development capabilities.
MediaTek's plans to boost technology democratisation and enable access to disruptive connectivity with its range of mainstream to flagship 5G chips.
"We at MediaTek are focused on making 2022 a year aimed at rapid growth, business success, and substantial expansion in our R&D capabilities. For 2022, we are focused on further strengthening our presence in India, offering incredible experiences to customers, and supporting the country's technology initiatives with our expertise and collaboration with leading OEMs," Anku Jain, Managing Director, MediaTek India said in a statement.
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In the flagship segment, MediaTek recently announced the Dimensity 9000 chip, which is a milestone of innovation and a rise to the incredible, built-to-power flagship 5G smartphones in the world, the company claims.
MediaTek Dimensity 9000 features a single Cortex-X2 performance core clocked at 3.05GHz, three Cortex-A710 cores at 2.85GHz and four Cortex-A510 efficiency cores at 1.8GHz.
It packs a 10-core Arm Mali-G710 that takes care of graphics processing, the report said.
The chipset also comes packed with MediaTek's fifth-generation APU with six total cores for AI processing.Unsplash
Also read: Realme Unveils First 5G Smartphone
The chipset also comes packed with MediaTek's fifth-generation APU with six total cores for AI processing.
The chipset can handle screens with up to a 180Hz refresh rate at Full HD+ resolutions. It is also the first chipset to have an 18-bit image signal processor, offering the ability to capture 4K HDR video using up to three cameras at the same time, or still photos using up to a massive 320MP sensor. (IANS/PR)
(Keywords: 5G, smartphones, Mediatek)