Understanding malabsorption syndrome: A condition in which d
Malabsorption syndrome could be pulling Indians back in the race to good health, and our climate might have something to do with it. A week since Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Fit India Movement for a fitter India, we take a look at a syndrome that can make us unhealthy, even when we eat a balanced diet.

What is malabsorption syndrome?

Malabsorption syndrome is an umbrella term for a host of conditions that impede the absorption of nutrients — not just vitamins and minerals, but also fats, carbohydrates and proteins — through the small intestine.

Studies indicate that the climate of India might be a factor in the higher occurrence of this disease here: with hot and humid weather for the better part of the year, there are ample opportunities for infectious microorganisms to grow and colonise.

A malabsorption epidemic was first noticed in India during World War II: both the armed forces and prisoners of war in the Indo‐Burma battlefield showed signs of it. The next major occurrence of the disease was recorded in South India, which battled with malabsorption-linked diarrhoea from the 1960s to the early 1980s.

Geography of malabsorption

Malabsorption is an important clinical problem, both among visitors to the tropics and the native population. Reliable data, however, is difficult to come by because the syndrome covers a range of diseases from celiac disease to tropical sprue in which the person is unable to absorb nutrients. Tropical sprue is thought to be a bacterial infection, whereas celiac disease is the result of an allergy to gluten - the protein in wheat.

Scientists who have studied Indian guts say that one of the bigger issues is that our small intestines — responsible for absorbing nutrients in the body — are just structurally different to those of people living in the temperate zone.

The intestine has folds which increase the surface area for absorption. In residents of countries like India (including nationals from temperate countries who have relocated to India), the tops in these folds tend to be shorter.

In 2006, B.S. Ramakrishna, S. Venkataraman and A. Mukhopadhayay, wrote on “Tropical Malabsorption” in the Postgraduate Medical Journal: “About 50% of healthy south Indian villagers had xylose malabsorption, reflecting reduced mucosal surface area in the small intestine; 10% had fat malabsorption and 3% had vitamin B12 malabsorption.”

Source: https://www.firstpost.com/health/understanding-malabsorption-syndrome-a-condition-in-which-despite-eating-right-indians-are-unable-to-absorb-nutrients-7284341.html
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