Monday, 8 March 2021

Marital rape: A non-criminalized crime in India

 The definition of rape codified in Section 375 of the Indian Penal Code (“IPC”) includes all forms of sexual assault involving nonconsensual intercourse with a woman.[2] However, Exception 2 to Section 375 exempts unwilling sexual intercourse between a husband and a wife over fifteen years of age from Section 375’s definition of “rape” and thus immunizes such acts from prosecution. As per current law, a wife is presumed to deliver perpetual consent to have sex with her husband after entering into marital relations. While unwilling sexual contact between a husband and a wife is recognized as a criminal offense in almost every country of the world, India is one of the thirty-six countries that still have not criminalized marital rape.[3] The Supreme Court of India and various High Courts are currently flooded with writ petitions challenging the constitutionality of this exception, and in a recent landmark judgment, the Supreme Court criminalized unwilling sexual contact with a wife between fifteen and eighteen years of age.[4] This judgment has in turn led to an increase in other writs challenging the constitutionality of Exception 2 as a whole. In light of ongoing litigation, this Article critically analyses the constitutionality of Exception 2. 

Violation of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution

Article 14 of the Indian Constitution ensures that “[t]he State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India.”[5] Although the Constitution guarantees equality to all, Indian criminal law discriminates against female victims who have been raped by their own husbands.

At the time the IPC was drafted in the 1860s, a married woman was not considered an independent legal entity. Rather, she was considered to be the chattel of her husband.[6] As a result, she did not possess many of the rights now guaranteed to her as an independent legal entity, including the right to file a complaint against another under her own identity.[7] Exception 2, which essentially exempts actions perpetrated by husbands against their wives from being considered acts of “rape,” is largely influenced by and derived from this already existing doctrine of merging the woman’s identity with that of her husband.

The roots of this doctrine can be traced to British colonial rule in the Victorian era.[8] India was a British colony during the 19th century. All Indian laws enacted at this time were deeply influenced by English laws and Victorian norms. The marital exception to the IPC’s definition of rape was drafted on the basis of Victorian patriarchal norms that did not recognize men and women as equals, did not allow married women to own property, and merged the identities of husband and wife under the “Doctrine of Coverture.”

But times have changed. Indian law now affords husbands and wives separate and independent legal identities, and much jurisprudence in the modern era is explicitly concerned with the protection of women. This concern is evident in the plethora of statutes intended to protect women from violence and harassment that have been passed since the turn of the century, including “The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act” and the “Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act.”[9]

Exception 2 violates the right to equality enshrined in Article 14 insofar as it discriminates against married women by denying them equal protection from rape and sexual harassment. The Exception creates two classes of women based on their marital status and immunizes actions perpetrated by men against their wives. In doing so, the Exception makes possible the victimization of married women for no reason other than their marital status while protecting unmarried women from those same acts.

Exception 2’s distinction between married and unmarried women also violates Article 14 insofar as the classification created has no rational relation to the underlying purpose of the statute. In Budhan Choudhary v. State of Bihar[10] and State of West Bengal v. Anwar Ali Sarkar[11], the Supreme Court held that any classification under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution is subject to a reasonableness test that can be passed only if the classification has some rational nexus to the objective that the act seeks to achieve. But Exception 2 frustrates the purpose of Section 375: to protect women and punish those who engage in the inhumane activity of rape. Exempting husbands from punishment is entirely contradictory to that objective. Put simply, the consequences of rape are the same whether a woman is married or unmarried. Moreover, married women may actually find it more difficult to escape abusive conditions at home because they are legally and financially tied to their husbands. In reality, Exception 2 encourages husbands to forcefully enter into sexual intercourse with their wives, as they know that their acts are not discouraged or penalized by law. Because no rational nexus can be deciphered between the classification created by the Exception and the underlying objective of the Act, it does not satisfy the test of reasonableness, and thus violates Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.


Violation of Article 21  

Exception 2 is also a violation of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution.[12] Article 21 states that “[n]o person shall be denied of his life and personal liberty except according to the procedure established by law.” The Supreme Court has interpreted this clause in various judgments to extend beyond the purely literal guarantee to life and liberty. Instead, it has held that the rights enshrined in Article 21 include the rights to health, privacy, dignity, safe living conditions, and safe environment, among others.

In recent years, courts have begun to acknowledge a right to abstain from sexual intercourse and to be free of unwanted sexual activity enshrined in these broader rights to life and personal liberty. In The State of Karnataka v. Krishnappa, the Supreme Court held that “[s]exual violence apart from being a dehumanizing act is an unlawful intrusion of the right to privacy and sanctity of a female.”[13] In the same judgment, it held that non-consensual sexual intercourse amounts to physical and sexual violence. Later, in Suchita Srivastava v. Chandigarh Administration, the Supreme Court equated the right to make choices related to sexual activity with rights to personal liberty, privacy, dignity, and bodily integrity under Article 21 of the Constitution.[14]

Most recently, the Supreme Court has explicitly recognized in Article 21 a right to make choices regarding intimate relations. In Justice K.S. Puttuswamy (Retd.) v. Union of India, the Supreme Court recognized the right to privacy as a fundamental right of all citizens and held that the right to privacy includes “decisional privacy reflected by an ability to make intimate decisions primarily consisting of one’s sexual or procreative nature and decisions in respect of intimate relations.”[15] Forced sexual cohabitation is a violation of that fundamental right.[16] The above rulings do not distinguish between the rights of married women and unmarried women and there is no contrary ruling stating that the individual’s right to a privacy is lost by marital association. Thus, the Supreme Court has recognized the right to abstain from sexual activity for all women, irrespective of their marital status, as a fundamental right conferred by Article 21 of the Constitution.

Additionally, Exception 2 violates Article 21’s right to live a healthy and dignified life. As mentioned above, it is well settled that the “right to life” envisaged in Article 21 is not merely a right to exist. For example, there can be no dispute that every citizen of India has the right to receive healthcare or that the state is required to provide for the health of its constituents.[17] In this vein, the courts have repeatedly held that the “right to life” encompasses a right to live with human dignity.[18] Yet the very existence of Exception 2, which fails to deter husbands from engaging in acts of forced sexual contact with their wives, adversely affects the physical and mental health of women and undermines their ability to live with dignity.

The above conclusions clearly reflect that Exception 2 to Section 375 of the IPC is an infringement of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. It is time that Indian jurisprudence understands the inhumane nature of this provision of law and strikes it down.



[1] Sarthak Makkar is a second-year student at Gujarat National Law University, India. He serves as an editor for The GNLU Law Review, associate editor of the GNLU Journal of Law and Economics and Student Editor for Supremo Amicus. He has previously interned at the Supreme Court of India with Senior Advocates Mr. Jayant Bhushan and Ms. Geeta Luthra and at Nishith Desai Associates.

[2] Indian Penal Code § 375, No. 45 of 1860, India Code.

[3] Marital Rape in India: 36 countries where marital rape is not a crime, India Today, Mar. 12, 2016.

[4] Independent Thought v. Union of India, (2013) 382 SCC (2017) (India).

[5] India Const. art. 14.

[6] To Have and to Hold: The Marital Rape Exemption and the Fourteenth Amendment, 99(6) Harv. L. Rev. 1255, 1256 (1986).

[7] See generally id.

[8] Jill Elain Hasday, Consent and Contest: A Legal History of Marital Rape, 88 Calif. L. Rev. 1373 (2000).

[9] Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, No. 43, Acts of Parliament, 2005 (India); Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, No. 14, Acts of Parliament, 2013 (India).

[10] Budhan v. State of Bihar, AIR (1955) SC 191 (India).

[11] State of West Bengal v. Anwar Ali Sarkar, AIR (1952) SC 75 (India).

[12] India Const. art. 21.

[13] The State of Karnataka v. Krishnappa, (2000) 4 SCC 75 (India).

[14] Suchita Srivastava v. Chandigarh Administration, (2008) 14 SCR 989 (India)

[15] Justice K.S. Puttuswamy (Retd.) v. Union of India, (2017) AIR 2017 SC 4161 (India).

[16] as “Right to abstain” from sexual intercourse is a long recognized principle of Indian Constitutional jurisprudence . Govind v. State of M.P, AIR (1975) SC 1378 (India); Kharak Singh v. State of U.P, (1963) AIR SC 1295 (India).

[17] Regional Director ESI Corpn. v. Francis de Costa, 1993 Supp (4) SCC 100; 5 D.D. Basu, Commentary on the Constitution of India, 4711 (LexisNexis 2015).

[18] C.E.S.C. Ltd. v. Subhash Chandra, (1992) 1 SCC 441 (India).

(Source: Harvard Human Rights Journal)

Sunday, 7 March 2021

India's richest beggars who are richer than you think

 How much do you earn a year and how much do you save? That depends on where you are in the world, and your lifestyle. But what if we told you some beggars earn much more than you and I do? Wondering how rich the richest beggar in India are? Here’s a list of few super-rich beggars in India, who own apartments, have lots of properties and a huge bank balance. But still, they continue to beg on the streets.

1. Bharat Jain -

Bharat Jain mostly works in the Parel region in Mumbai. Apart from owning two apartments valued at 70 lakhs each. According to Patrika’s report, he supposedly earns nearly Rs 75,000 a month.

2. Laxmi Das -

Lakshmi started begging from the age of just 16 in Kolkata from the year 1964 and saved as much as he could in his career of more than 50 years and opened a bank account and a lot of savings.

3. Krishna Kumar Gite -

Gite reportedly begs near Charni Road, Mumbai and owns a flat where he lives with his brother. He apparently earns approximately Rs 1,500 a day. 

4. Burju Chandra Azad -

Burju Chandra Azad reportedly had a fixed deposit of Rs 8.77 lakhs and around Rs 1.5 lakhs in cash, at his residence, in Govandi. All of his assets were discovered by the Mumbai police after he lost his life in a train accident in 2019.

5. Pappu Kumar -

After fracturing his leg in an accident, Pappu started begging on Patna's rail platforms to make a living. According to some reports, Kumar has assets worth Rs 1.25 crores.

6. Massu or Malana -

Massu reportedly starts begging around 8 in the evening. He begs mostly outside high-end restaurants visited by Television and film stars. He is said to earn anywhere between Rs 1,000 to Rs 1,500 on average, every day. Aside from his 1 BHK flat at Amboli in Andheri West, he is said to own a flat in Andheri East, too.

8. Sarvatia Devi -

Sarvatia is one of the more prominent beggars living behind Ashok Cinema in Patna. Apparently, she earns Rs 50,000 each month and pays an annual insurance premium of Rs 36,000.

7. Sambhaji Kale -

Sambhaji Kale is another professional beggar who owns a lot of real estate- the owner of one flat, one piece of land, and two individual houses in Solapur. He has made some investments worth thousands as well.

(Source: India Times)

Saturday, 6 March 2021

The invisibility of older women

 As they age, women experience less public scrutiny—and entertain a wider set of choices about when and how they are seen.

In Alfred Hitchcock’s 1938 film, The Lady Vanishes, a young woman on a train becomes disturbed by the sudden disappearance of a kindly older woman, a governess and music teacher. The latter, a spinster, is introduced to the viewer when she writes the letters of her name in the condensation on one of the train’s glass windowpanes, only to have them evaporate almost instantly. Within minutes, she is gone, and the other passengers, steward, and conductor claim to have never seen her. 

Asked to describe her, the young woman can only say she was “middle-aged and ordinary,” before admitting, “I can’t remember.” Later in the film, the older woman is reduced to “a hallucination, a subjective image, a character in a novel subconsciously remembered,” and even “nothing but lumps of raw flesh,” all before she is revealed as a British spy, the movie’s ultimate heroine in the final scene.

Today, women appear—or disappear—in any manner of guises. In the photographer Patty Carroll’s series Anonymous Women, it is household artifacts and traditions—upholstery fabric, curtains, telephones, slabs of bacon, leaves of lettuce, a braided loaf of bread, rolls of wallpaper, pillows, and plates—into which each model disappears, swallowed whole by the python of domesticity. 

In Whitney Otto’s novel Now You See Her, the vanishing woman works in an office, present but unseen. Her cat is indifferent when she trips over it, and when she presses her palm to her forehead, it is “only to notice her hand fading away with the motion, from fingertips to forearm.” In the more recent film Hello, My Name Is Doris, Sally Field plays an older woman who develops a crush on a younger man with whom she shares an office; at the beginning of the story, he adjusts her crooked glasses. As the film critic Manohla Dargis wrote in The New York Times, the young man’s spontaneous gesture of kindness is transformative: Wrinkles, apparently, “have a way of making women disappear one crease at a time,” and when she is noticed momentarily by a younger man, such recognition evidently “makes her visible, most importantly to herself.”

The invisible woman might be the actor no longer offered roles after her 40th birthday, the 50-year-old woman who can’t land a job interview, or the widow who finds her dinner invitations declining with the absence of her husband. She is the woman who finds that she is no longer the object of the male gaze—youth faded, childbearing years behind her, social value diminished. Referring to her anticipated disappearance on her upcoming 50th birthday, the writer Ayelet Waldman said to an interviewer, “I have a big personality, and I have a certain level of professional competence, and I’m used to being taken seriously professionally. And suddenly, it’s like I just vanished from the room. And I have to yell so much louder to be seen. … I just want to walk down the street and have someone notice that I exist.”

Her words evoke another woman walking, unseen, down the street nearly a century ago. As Clarissa Dalloway shops in London for flowers on a June morning, Virginia Woolf speculates about her protagonist’s transitory identity. Mrs. Dalloway, considering her place among the people she knows, finds that “often now this body she wore (she stopped to look at a Dutch picture), this body, with all its capacities, seemed nothing—nothing at all. She had the oddest sense of being herself invisible, unseen; unknown.” She recalls that she is known now simply by her husband’s name, and a few sentences later, she considers how sometimes it is simply by their gloves and shoes that women are identified. She knows nothing, she thinks, no language, no history, and hardly reads books except memoirs. She realizes then that “her only gift was knowing people almost by instinct.”

One’s identity, Woolf seems to say, is transient, and perhaps all the more so with age. As women become older, they entertain a wider set of choices about when and how they are seen. This vanishing can occur more rapidly or be felt more acutely. Clarissa Dalloway’s sense of fleeting self was described more explicitly decades later by the writer Francine du Plessix Gray in her essay “The Third Age.” If the gaze of others wanes, Gray suggests, one might choose to “acquire instead a deepened inward gaze, or intensify our observation of others, or evolve alternative means of attention-getting which transcend sexuality and depend, as the mentors of my youth taught me, upon presence, authority, and voice.”

Gray may be talking about the difference between being a subject and an object. It is a cliché to point out that ours is a culture in which men routinely objectify women, but according to Alison Carper, a psychologist who practices in New York, if a woman is complicit in this practice—that is, in viewing herself as an object—she cannot help but be acutely aware when that object loses its desirability. “As humans, we all need to be recognized,” Carper adds, “but as we grow older, the manner of recognition we search for can change. A subject is someone who experiences her own agency, who is aware of how she can and does have an impact on others and how she is, ultimately, the author of her own life. She is aware of the responsibility this carries.” A woman without fully developed interiority might continue to objectify herself.

Clarissa Dalloway is clearly a subject. She realizes that her body is simply something that she wears, and then, a sentence later, finds that it is really nothing, nothing at all. Woolf suggests a correlation between invisibility and the ability to know people by instinct when she identifies both these qualities in Clarissa within a single paragraph. Since she published Mrs. Dalloway in the mid-1920s, more prosaic studies of human nature have come to similar conclusions. A reduced sense of visibility does not necessarily constrain experience. Associated with greater empathy and compassion, invisibility directs us toward a more humanitarian view of the larger world. This diminished status can, in fact, sustain and inform—rather than limit—our lives. Going unrecognized can, paradoxically, help us recognize our place in the larger scheme of things.

It is a theme Woolf returns to again and again, as when Clarissa Dalloway considers the “odd affinities she had with people she had never spoken to, some woman in the street, some man behind a counter—even trees, or barns.” Clarissa recognizes that our lives can be measured by what we have done to touch the lives of others; she is attuned to how human associations can be formed with complete strangers. And to the enduring value—indeed, power—of such alliances.

Her modern counterpart might be Mystique, the shape-shifting mutant from the X-Men series, played most recently by Jennifer Lawrence. She has no physical self beyond her blue body and instead morphs into the forms of others, among them an assassin, a German secret agent, a professor, a young girl, a senator’s wife, a fashion model, and a member of the U.S. Department of Defense. Her power is her indistinct appearance; it is what enables her to assume other identities.

But another likely counterpart to Clarissa Dalloway might be the famous 1960s model Vera Lehndorff, popularly known then as Veruschka. Toward the conclusion of her career, she collaborated with the German artist Holger Trülzsch, painting her body in patterns, colors, and textures to match different backgrounds. “When I started to paint myself,” Lehndorff writes,

the color and I were one: there was no “between.” … This experience of coherence between us and the world around us is one of well-being; it produces a sense of affinity with whatever it is with which we come into contact.

There is Lehndorff, lying on gray sand or receding into a dark doorway or leaning against a white wall. In the last, her body has been stippled white up to her shoulders, but her head seems to have been dyed a bright azure to match the sky behind it. It is an image of the female body going from object to air, from material to immaterial, from thing to nothing. It is camouflage that has nothing to do with escaping prey, avoiding danger, or finding food or a mate, and everything to do with finding a coherence.

All this may speak to a revised etiquette of invisibility. Opacity itself can work as a connective tissue. If humans do leave a mark, it is just some quick and temporary elusive imprint, nothing more than a fugitive logo or insignia. And it’s probably not the worst thing for any of us to imagine identity as an arrangement of letters written for a few moments on the clouded window of a train that is speeding out of view.

(Source: The Atlantic)

Friday, 5 March 2021

How much can you trust Bollywood’s favourite dietician Rujuta Diwekar?

 Celebrity dietician Rujuta Diwekar stirred up a Twitter row last month when she said mangoes are safe for diabetics. It was yet another of her many contentious claims.

If you’ve Googled “how to lose weight” in India, a name you would not have missed in the results is Rujuta Diwekar.

The celebrity nutritionist with a glittering clientele such as Kareena Kapoor and Anupam Kher, is the author of the popular book Don’t Lose Your Mind, Lose Your Weight. Diwekar also has a formidable online presence —her Twitter followers and YouTube video views are both in excess of half a million.

Celebrity nutritionist Rujuta Diwekar (centre) has a glittering clientele | Commons

The 44-year-old’s emphasis on cooking locally available produce, exalting “Indian food the way your grandmother cooked them”, advocating counting pranic value (which she classifies as freshness of food) instead of calories, while also citing new American research on heart disease and using WHO statistics to back sugar consumption, have earned her admirers across the spectrum.

But her ideas have also drawn as much flak as they have followers as Diwekar has earned the ire of doctors, nutritionists and researchers.

On 30 April, Diwekar, who came into prominence in 2008 for helping Kapoor achieve a “size zero” body for the movie Tashan, created a stir when she recommended mangoes for diabetics, tweeting that the fruit is seasonal, local and low on glycemic index (GI).

It angered medical professionals, who termed the advice dangerous.

But such is her following, Diwekar was swiftly defended, with many of her followers pointing to the fruit’s relatively low glycemic index.

Responding by email to queries from ThePrint, Diwekar said that her recommendation was based on one from a doctors’ body. 

“Mango and its effect on blood sugars — it’s from the Association of Physicians of India, Karnataka chapter. One of the objectives of this study was to get diabetics to consume fresh, local fruits without fear,” she said.

She also stressed that her statements are based on available research. “Every idea that I talk about or tweet has been in the public domain for over a decade. A cursory Google search will help you find articles from authoritative journals that back that information,” she said.

Lack of context

Technically, Diwekar’s statements are often correct. Mangoes do have a lower GI but her throwaway advice, say medical experts, lacks the larger context of portion control and total sugar consumption. Mangoes aren’t just sugar; they’re full of nutrients. But mangoes aren’t just nutrients either; they’re also full of sugar.

“It is highly incorrect to make recommendations for any food item solely on the basis of GI,” explained Maaz Shaikh, the co-founder of Wellthy therapeutics, India’s first digital therapeutic firm managing thousands of diabetics every day. “For a diabetic, what matters most is the glycemic load — total amount of sugar that enters their system.”

So, the problem is not a diabetic patient eating mangoes, it is not knowing when to stop.

But Diwekar not only avoids mentioning portion control in public, she seemingly advocates against it, saying in this interview, “We are born with the ability to self-terminate eating; we do not need a dietician or a doctor to tell us where to stop.”

To her credit, that’s not entirely wrong.

“All animals do have checks and balances that keep them from overeating,” explained Ishi Khosla, clinical nutritionist at the Centre For Dietary Counselling, Delhi, and founder of The Celiac Society Of India. “The perfect example of this is how you can never overfeed a baby or a pet. But that is provided they aren’t exposed to sugar or junk.”

But sugar changes everything.

All about sugar

Diwekar’s assertions on sugar are contentious, to say the least. Her new book, ‘Indian Super Foods’, lists sugar as one. In a fiction vs fact table, she terms the medical advice to “avoid sugar if diabetic” as fiction and claims that meta studies have shown no “conclusive link between consumption of sugar and diabetes”. 

Diwekar also claims that refined sugar and jaggery are healthier than beet sugar.

“Most forms of sugar are converted to glucose in the body,” explained Shaikh. “Simple sugars like our everyday white sugar spike our blood sugar levels very fast while more complex sugars lead to slower rise. Sugarcane, jaggery, beet sugar are all simple sugars that are absorbed rapidly and spike blood sugar levels.”

In her book, Diwekar claims low-calorie sweeteners can cause cancer — a claim heavily debunked. Her advice, particularly on Twitter, where her words reach more than 5 lakh people, doesn’t explain the complexities of nutrition nor does she cite authoritative sources.

Links she provided to ThePrint backing her statement on sweeteners (like hereherehere) all demonstrate older studies on rats. Today, even the most conservative of studies show that the mechanism of increased cancer incidence can be seen only in rats. It is non-reproducible in human physiology and artificial sweeteners were completely delisted from carcinogen lists in 2000.

She often proclaims that microwaves are harmful as micronutrient bonds “break, get oxidised, become toxic”. This myth has been refuted again and again; nutrients are best preserved when cooked fastest and microwaves are more suitable for that than low flames.

Her links to back these statements  (like this 1992 study, this study on any form of heating on garlic, this 1995 paper on milk, and this self-critical piece on microwave plastic) are at least 10 years old.

Diwekar uses the age of the studies to validate her stance without recognising that all of it is very much outdated, replaced today with better products and safe results.

“People who follow me on Twitter are intelligent and don’t take anything at face value. They arrive at their own decisions on food,” she said. “All I hope for is that one arrives at them based on facts and not fears.”

Unfortunately, Diwekar’s factually incorrect statements appear alongside sensible advice — like responsibly reducing plastic — increasing the credibility of her words.

Eat-local, the business model

Much of Diwekar’s appeal lies in her emphasis on consuming locally available produce and relying on our grandmothers’ cooking techniques. Her USP is simple: Stick to Indian foods the way our grandparents ate them.

Diwekar backs her claims on what our “ancestors” ate without details or context of the evolution of food. A whole host of vegetables that are staple today, including potatoes, tomatoes, and capsicum, came to India just 400 years ago. Apple came to India a little under a century ago.

“Our dadis, nanis seem to be eating whatever they like. They have great skin and look good even today. What are they doing that we aren’t?” she asks. The answer is obvious: No processed foods, sugar and junk that surround us at every corner. It’s not what they eat, it’s what they don’t.

Her standard recommendation to everyone, even those with diabetes and blood pressure, is eating rice, dal, and ghee every day.

“A lot of her advice on ‘traditional’ foods doesn’t apply to people who don’t belong to educated, upper-caste elite,” said Dr Veena Shatrugna, former deputy director and head of the Clinical Division at the National Institute of Nutrition.

Even today, the majority of the country simply cannot afford to eat rice, ghee and dal every day. “A large part of the working class eats rice with chutney or roti with onions. On the ground, it is important to not straddle class and social layers with sweeping statements,” added Shatrugna.

Diwekar also advocates for simple changes that are mostly just common sense and non-specific: Exercise every day, eat in short intervals for blood sugar stability, avoid packaged foods, eat healthy fats, cook foods we understand.

“Brazil is in this area,” she told ThePrint. “Their official dietary guidelines reflect the current space that nutrition science is in — eating is a social act, we should eat traditional and home cooked food (to account for diversity in cuisines and climate), and pay attention to food while eating to guide us on quantities instead of fussing about portion size.”

Nutritionist or dietician?

Diwekar’s words have impact and reach for a reason: There is a dearth of voices on nutrition, particularly from medical professionals.

“I would heavily fault doctors,” said Shatrugna. “Most have abdicated nutrition entirely. They advise diabetics to stop eating sugars and carbs like rice and meat, but don’t tell them what to eat instead. So, patients turn to nutritionists who are often without medical training, and whose important science isn’t seen as academic or useful by doctors.”

It is this void that Diwekar has tapped into efficiently. A lot of people whose troubles need to be controlled by diets don’t really know what to eat, so they turn to whoever has advice.

“Nutritional advice can apply to someone who’s hale and hearty and wants to lose weight at best,” said Dr. Kamini Rao, IVF specialist and founder of Milann Centre for Reproductive Medicine.

“Anyone with even the slightest of diseases requires personalised advice. Everyone with the same disease can’t be bunched into one group. Nutrition cannot replace medical advice, and it isn’t safe to recommend foods online to those with diseases,” she said.

In India, dietetics and nutrition aren’t well regulated. While the field of nutritionists is pretty much unregulated in most parts of the world, being a dietician requires a licence in several countries. 

But not in India, where the two words are used interchangeably.

“Nutrition is something everyone is waking up to today. It’s an evolving science that is often accompanied by a lot of sensationalism,” explained Khosla, a clinical nutritionist.

“Unfortunately, there is no prerequisite for a nutritionist in India today. People with a personal weight loss story or even marketers of nutritional supplements can call themselves a nutritionist.”

That isn’t good news for those seeking advice online, which is pretty much most of us.

“In the battle of your research vs mine, common sense, experience and practicality wins,” Diwekar told ThePrint. 

“Thanks to the internet, we are demanding more transparency about food research, asking questions of who funds a study, and if this affects the conclusion it arrives at.”

Like Diwekar herself seemingly agrees, words of celebrity nutritionists — especially in non-professional consultations — perhaps need to be taken with a generous helping of salt.

(Source: The Print)

Thursday, 4 March 2021

Scientists successfully “wake” microbes that had remained dormant for 100 million years

The microbes belong to ten different groups of bacteria that entered an energy-saving state when the dinosaurs roamed the Earth.

Scientists have successfully managed to wake a series of microbes that had remained “asleep” for at least 100 million years. The microbes that existed during the dinosaurs’ time have shown traces of growth in the latest studies.

A team of scientists in the US and Japan says that these prehistoric microorganisms began to grow and divide despite having entered an energy-saving state when dinosaurs were still walking on Earth.

The microbes belonged to ten different bacteria groups and were recovered from sediments mined in 2010 at the bottom of the South Pacific Gyre, one of the most deserted parts of the ocean in terms of nutrients.

“Our results suggest that microbial communities widely distributed in organic-poor abyssal sediment consist mainly of aerobes that retain their metabolic potential under extremely low-energy conditions for up to 101.5 million years,” write researchers in their study.

To obtain samples of the maximum possible depth, they drilled wells of up to 100 meters in the seabed at 5,700 meters below the surface.

The researchers, led by geomicrobiologist Yuki Morono of the Japan Marine Science and Technology Agency, incubated the sleeping microbes for 557 days in a laboratory.

Carbon and nitrogen sources such as ammonia, acetate, and amino acids were supplied to see if they subsequently succeeded in removing them from their torpor.

“It is surprising and biologically challenging that a large fraction of the microbes revived after being buried and trapped for so long in conditions of extreme nutrient and energy deficiency,” admits Morono.

Microbes are aerobic — they require oxygen to live — and oxygen was present in the sediment samples.

According to the researchers, this means that if sediments accumulate gradually on the seafloor, at a rate not exceeding a yard or two every million years, oxygen can remain present and allow these microorganisms to survive for extraordinary periods of time.

“I was skeptical at first, but we found that up to 99.1% of microbes in sediments deposited 101.5 million years ago were still alive and able to grow,” says study co-author Steven D’Hondt of the University of Rhode Island.

“Maintaining a physiological capacity for 100 million years in starving confinement is an impressive feature. We want to understand how these ancient microbes evolved, if at all.

This study shows that the subsoil is an excellent location to explore the limits of life on Earth, explain the researchers.

The paper describing the incredible characteristics of the microbes has been published in the Journal Nature Communications.

This is a great achievement since direct evidence of the physiological nature, and survival status of microbial cells in this extremely energy-poor setting is poorly documented.

In addition to proving how resistant some microbes on Earth are, the recent study helps us better understand the possibility of similar microbes existing on other planets or moons in our solar system.

Mars, for example, was likely a planet very similar to Earth in the past.

Although there is currently no evidence of present life on Mars, new exploratory missions of the red planet could help reveal whether such microbes could survive beneath the surface of Mars as well.

(Source: Curiosmos)