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All available eco-friendly Holi colors are safe



With the festival of Holi just around the corner, Health Patrol has been flooded with questions about the safety of Holi colors despite social distancing norms* being mandated during the festival time. One of these questions has been on the eco-friendliness of Holi colors and if they are safe for use. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, being eco-friendly means being ‘designed to have little or no damaging effect on the environment’, which basically translates into “do no harm”.

In India, due to lack of stringent guidelines, a lot of manufacturers tend to freely use terms like ‘eco-friendly’, ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ to lure customers into purchasing products that are neither eco-friendly, nor safe for your skin and hair.  For e.g., a news coverage a few years ago showed how food colors are added to maida or rice flour to pass of as natural, whereas the very food colors themselves are chemical colors.

Similarly, chemical Holi colors are made of synthetic food colors or dyes such as malachite green, which is a cancer-causing agent, or auramine and rhodamine that are highly toxic for human health and the environment. Often, mica dust is also added to Holi colors for increased shine and these additives can cause eye and skin irritation, allergies and serious infections.

Herbal or natural colors are the only eco-friendly colors as they are derived from leaves, fruits or vegetables—basically anything that originates from plant sources. Popular ingredients include palash flowers, beetroot, hibiscus, marigold, with flours like maida or rice powder or powder from roots that can be colored and used for skin and hair safely. These are all non-toxic, that is, they are generally safe to eat or breathe and do not harm the environment because they are biodegradable.

The impact of Holi colors on air pollution is also well-established. In 2016, the German Federal Environment Agency tested four Holi powders. When you throw the powder in the air it comes down very slowly and looks lovely. However, scientists note that this is an indication of high concentrations of PM10 (PM, Particulate Matter) particles – up to almost 40-80%. Apart from negatively impacting air quality, high levels of PM10 particles in the air also irritate the eyes and throat. People with existing heart or lung conditions (including asthma) can experience an increase in symptoms like wheezing and difficulty breathing.

Key points to ensure an eco-friendly Holi include the following:

  1. Fragrance: Rose water, orange, turmeric, etc.
  2. Package labels: Should contain plant sources
  3. Vibrancy: Natural colors are dull
  4. Washable: Natural colors wash away easily with water

*: Odisha, Chandigarh, Gujarat, Bihar, Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh have banned Holi gatherings to curb the spread of COVID-19 infection.

In Maharashtra, the state that is the worst affected at this time, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has stated that Holi celebration on Sunday (March 28) and Monday (March 29) both public and private will not be permitted, warning of strict actions under the Epidemic Disease Act of 1987 and Disaster Management Act of 2005.  

The Pune district and civic authorities have also banned Holi celebration in public and private spaces. Rajesh Deshmukh, the District Collector, Pune has ordered that Holi celebration in public spaces such as hotels, resorts and other public spots in rural areas are banned. Housing societies are not permitted to organize Holi celebrations on their premises on March 28, 29.

UIN: 201HP57F

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Everyone can benefit from a probiotic



Probiotics are live microorganisms that can be consumed through foods such as curd/yoghurt and through supplemental forms. Studies show that the balance or imbalance of bacteria in your digestive system is linked to overall health and disease and probiotics promote a healthy balance of gut bacteria. They are used in managing and treating a variety of disease states. They are live microorganisms that are known to help improve gut health and include benefits for weight loss, digestive health, immune function and more.

However, current research suggests that probiotic supplements may not benefit everyone and should not be prescribed as a one-size-fits-all supplement. However, when taken in moderation according to your clinician’s advice, probiotics have a plethora of benefits reported in literature. Recent researches point out that changes in the gut microbiota would lead to a systemic inflammation that in different ways would reach the CNS modulating inflammatory pathways and especially the microglia, which could influence responses to treatments. Probiotics have therefore shown antidepressant responses and anti-inflammatory effects.

Studies also show probiotics promote mental flexibility and alleviate stress in healthy older adults, along with causing changes in gut microbiota. The probiotics exert their beneficial effects through modulation of host immune responses, maintain gut homeostasis and produce interferon thereby suppressing the virus induced cytokine storm.

Studies have also shown probiotics could significantly decrease the serum levels of high-sensitivity C-reactive protein and interleukin-6 and increase the serum albumin levels, upper arm circumference, and triceps skinfold thickness in patients undergoing peritoneal dialysis. 

What’s more – Probiotics may potentially have a beneficial role in preventing COVID-19. A recent study quotes, “The efficacy of probiotics has been studied previously on several respiratory tract viral infections. Probiotics comprise living microbes that upon oral administration benefit human health by reshaping the composition of gut microbiota. The close kinship of the gastrointestinal and respiratory tract suggests why the dysfunction of one may incite illness in others. The emerging studies suggest the capability of probiotics to regulate immune responses in the respiratory system.”

However, some studies showed that bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine related to probiotic use can lead to bloating, gas, and other adverse side effects. Additionally, some studies show that probiotic treatment following a course of antibiotics may delay the natural reconstitution of normal gut bacteria.

Therefore, it is recommended that you get a health checkup done starting from consulting your family physician who will advise if you need probiotic supplementation or not.

UIN: 220HP121R

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Fully vaccinated individuals have lower travel risk but can be carriers



While the debate for vaccinations continues across the globe, there is good news for those who have gotten vaccinated. Vaccination reduces risk of infection about 15-20 days after the dosing is complete. According to the new guidelines issued by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), US, it is okay to travel domestically if you are fully vaccinated. Which means, you have completed the two doses of the two-dose vaccines or one dose of the J&J vaccine. Or as the CDC puts it’s, “you’re considered fully vaccinated 2 weeks after you receive the last required dose of the COVID-19 vaccine”.

While the US has issued statements that fully vaccinated domestic travelers don’t need to be tested before or after traveling unless their destination requires it, in India the rules for entering different states by air need to be checked well in time because a lot of states mandate a negative RT-PCR test for entry requirements. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in India has issued guidelines for International Travel and so has the Ministry of Civil Aviation for domestic travel on 30th March 2021. The DGCA has stated that surveillance across the airports in India will now be increased to ensure all COVID-19 protection protocols are taken into account.

On 13th April 2021, the Indian Railways has also confirmed that in view of the COVID-19 pandemic and related hygiene issues, they have also stopped service of cooked food and replaced the same with Ready to Eat (RTE) meals in trains. In addition, they have ensured that the COVID-19 related protective items such as masks, sanitizers, gloves etc. and takeaway bedroll kits/items, are available for sale through Multi-Purpose Stalls at Stations.

However, as is recommended, even fully vaccinated travelers should still follow the recommendations for traveling safely, including wearing a mask over your nose and mouth, staying 6 feet away from others and avoiding crowds, washing your hands often or using hand sanitizer, self-monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms after traveling, and isolate and get tested if symptoms develop

It is still very important to stay cautious and avoid potential exposures to the coronavirus whenever possible during travel, mainly because vaccination drives are still ongoing, and it is not recommended to travel unguarded since a lot of COVID-19 patients remain asymptomatic and can continue to spread the virus to other unvaccinated people. Also, no vaccine is a 100% fail safe yet, so a very small fraction of fully vaccinated people may still be at risk because emerging variants of the virus add a measure of uncertainty.

UIN: 219HP120R

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Fact Check

Carbohydrates make you gain weight



Weight gain is associated with many factors besides just a high fat or high carbohydrate diet. We have carried numerous stories on maintaining an ideal weight and what factors affect weight – weight gain and weight loss.  Just as fat has been blamed for promoting weight gain and heart disease, carbohydrates have been shunned by many people over fears that consuming this macronutrient will cause obesity, diabetes, and other adverse health effects. However, in reality, eating a moderate amount of nutritious (or good) carbohydrates that are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals like starchy root vegetables, grains, and legumes benefit health and not harm it.

However, what is also important to understand is that diabetes is one of the most prevalent health conditions in Indians. Dietary carbohydrates form the major source of energy in our diets. The carbohydrate quantity and quality play a vital function in the prevention and management of diabetes and higher carbohydrate diets are linked to higher prevalence and incidence of diabetes.

Complex carbohydrates such as brown rice, whole wheat bread, legumes, pulses and green leafy vegetables are good carbohydrates. Conversely, highly polished rice or refined wheat, sugar, glucose, highly processed foods such as cookies and pastries, fruit juice and sweetened beverages and fried potatoes or French fries are obviously ‘bad’ carbohydrates. Ultimately, it is all a matter of balance and moderation in diet. For Indians who currently consume about 65-75% calories from carbohydrates, reducing this to 50-55% and adding enough protein (20-25%) especially from vegetable sources and the rest from fat (20-30%) by including monounsaturated fats (e.g., groundnut or mustard oil, nuts and seeds) along with a plenty of green leafy vegetables, would be the best diet prescription for the prevention and management of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart diseases.

Similarly, knowledge of ‘bad’ carbohydrates is also important—for e.g., carbohydrate-rich foods like cakes, cookies, sweetened beverages, and white bread should be restricted, as these foods can increase weight gain and disease risk when eaten in excess.

Therefore, it is safe to conclude that including healthy carbohydrate choices in your diet won’t make you gain weight. However, following unhealthy eating patterns and overindulging in carb-rich sugary foods will lead to weight gain.


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Real-world data shows 90% efficacy of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines



Pfizer-BioNTech and ModernaCOVID-19 vaccines are messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines but are not available in India yet. These COVID-19 vaccines have been shown to be effective in preventing symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection in randomized placebo-controlled Phase III trials.

A new study has shown that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna-NIAID vaccines are effective at preventing infections in the real world. According to the CDC, the authorized mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are effective for preventing SARS-CoV-2 infection in real-world conditions. COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for all eligible persons.

 This study has been published March 29 in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a publication of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the USA. Study analysts have seen that the two-dose vaccine regimen was 90% effective at preventing infections 2 weeks after receiving the second dose.

This new study restores faith in the COVID-19 vaccines and has shown to be highly effective at preventing symptomatic and asymptomatic infections in real-world settings. As per the study results, this data is similar to those from earlier phase 3 clinical trials published in the journal New England Journal of Medicine, which found an efficacy of more than 90% for both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna-NIAID vaccines. This is encouraging news for everyone across the globe because real-world effectiveness is often conservative and therefore, lower due to a number of factors.

Dr. James H. Conway, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said what we really care about is a vaccine’s effectiveness — its real-world potential. He further added that such studies are not only proving how effective the vaccines can be for the studies and research data, but also show the true power of vaccines for real-world COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, results published in the recent report from the CDC reassure that the vaccines are working as well as they are hoped to, in curbing the pandemic and in turn, stopping the spread of the virus.

Get vaccinated today!!

Read about the vaccination registration procedure here. For details about the type of vaccine and the dosing schedule, read here.

UIN: 210HP115R

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Sputnik V submitted for DGCI approval for emergency use authorization



On 13th April 2021, the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) has approved the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use.  After Covishield, developed by Oxford University-AstraZeneca and manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII), and Bharat Biotech’s Covaxin, this will be the third vaccine against the novel coronavirus that has been granted emergency use authorization in India.

India is the 60th country to approve Sputnik V—the rollout for which is likely to begin by end of April or early May.Currently, the Sputnik V will be imported before the local production kicks in. It is hoped that this emergency approval of Sputnik V will strengthen the government efforts to scale up vaccination, as India is battling the second wave of the pandemic with close to 1.4 lac cases reported on 12th April 2021.

India is also the leading production hub for Sputnik V, since its parent manufacturer company has reached agreements with the leading pharmaceutical companies in India such as Gland Pharma, Hetero Biopharma, Panacea Biotec, Stelis Biopharma, Virchow Biotech aimed at production of more than 850 million doses per year, sufficient to vaccinate more than 425 million people around the world.

The vaccine Sputnik V ranks second among coronavirus vaccines globally in terms of the number of approvals issued by government regulators and has an efficacy of 91.6%. It has shown encouraging results in protection against severe cases of COVID-19 as demonstrated by the data published in one of the leading medical journals The Lancet.

Sputnik V uses two different vectors (adenovirus 26 and adenovirus 5) for the two shots in a course of vaccination, providing immunity with a longer duration than vaccines using the same delivery mechanism for both shots.The safety, efficacy and lack of negative long-term effects of adenoviral vaccines have been proven by more than 250 clinical studies over two decades. There are no strong allergies caused by Sputnik V and with a storage temperature of 2-8 degrees Celsius, the vaccine can be stored in conventional refrigerators without the need to invest in additional cold-chain infrastructure.

UIN: 221HP122R

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