We see our expansive urban world as a wonderful creation and a great achievement of ours. Expectations of a good life, prosperity and achievement attract people to urban locales. It is believed that more than half of the global population now lives in cities and other urban settlements.
But if we look deeply, urbanization encourages a lot of physical changes and many people live with these changes. They are exposed to a number of unnatural environmental factors, such as the way we live, breathe and eat our food. The two biggest problems we face today because of urban lifestyles are environmental degradation and poor health.
How has urbanization affected our quality of life?
Modern urban cities witness poor physical conditions and quality of life compared to those in rural areas. Although the modern-day industrial revolution and the need for more power and production have created many job opportunities, it also means fewer places to live in.
Urbanization has converted the economy from other platforms, such as agriculture or farming, to industrial. This, in turn, makes many people migrate to industrial towns and cities causing a huge rise in population within a limited space. Due to this large influx, the quantum of economy may prosper, but it also gives rise to many health challenges and other problems for these people.
Urbanization and diet
One factor of urbanization that has affected people’s health is the change in our eating habits. It has promoted lots of accessible, easy-to-get and ready-to-eat foods which, although tasty, have no nutritional value, are not of good quality and contain large amounts of sugar and sodium. Thus, malnutrition has become a pressing issue in urban areas.
To cater to a busy urban lifestyle, people adapt to a wide variety of foods prepared outside, including street-food and ready-to-prepare food, but these are not safe in terms of nutritional value or hygiene. But, because these are easily available, people indulge in them more often.
Even the foods available in markets and stores are stripped of their nutritional values. To make them look attractive and enticing, they are polished, which removes their germs and bran, making them practically of zero nutritional value. Increased consumption of low-quality foods leads to numerous health problems, such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, heart ailments, obesity and so on. Most of these health hazards are lifestyle problems that people living in urban areas face.
Urbanization and air pollution
Another serious negative aspect of living in a congested place is the poor quality of air. Due to extensive industrialization in urban areas, the air quality is extremely poor. Vehicular emission, industrial and refinery wastes and such chemical emissions as carbon dioxide and methane make matters worse. Continuous exposure to such air quality can lead to asthma, different types of cancers, such as lung cancer and other cardiovascular diseases.
Urbanization and lifestyle habits
The pressure to prosper and cope is one of the biggest challenges that individuals living in urban cities face. The demand to deliver, and excel, puts a lot of us into depression and mental tensions. This leads people to take to alcohol, tobacco and non-prescribed, stress-buster drugs. Lack of an active lifestyle, or any physical activity makes people more prone to severe health problems.
Urbanization and microbiome
Diet (the choice of food) — in particular, macronutrients — plays a major role in shaping the composition and activity of our microbiome. Both short- and long-term dietary changes and poor food choices can largely influence the microbial profiles and nutrition that have lifelong consequences through microbial modulation of the immune system. The impact of environmental factors, including lifestyle aspects, can adversely affect our microbiome composition and overall health and body functionality.
Probiotics and prebiotics are diet-based processes or strategies for promoting health through improving the composition of the microbiota. Our digestive system must maintain a healthy balance of good bacteria for us to be able to digest food properly and stay healthy. This is relatively easy to accomplish if one regularly takes a good probiotic and prebiotic supplement that has sufficient variety of micro-organisms in it, providing a sufficiently large dosage of bacteria and fortified with probiotics to nurture the growth of beneficial bacteria. All said and done, it is an excellent idea to include probiotics and prebiotics as part of your overall health programme in this modern era.
Secret of good health
‘Being a biotechnologist by profession, I’m convinced that microbiome is the most significant part of our body and plays a key role in our health. I believe the focus of future research on human health will revolve round the microbiome’
(Dr. Prakash Chandra Bhatt is the founder of Billion Cheers and Fermentis Life Sciences, a passionate research scientist with doctorate in pharmaceutical biotechnology from Jamia Hamdard University. His expertise lies in developing innovative products and processes by application of biotechnology, nanotechnology and fermentation technology. He is a proud recipient of Young Scientist Award and research grant from the Department of Science & Technology of Government of India. )
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the organisation itself.