Dr. Coluthur Gopalan: Nutritionist Par Excellence

Nutritionist Par Excellence: Dr. Coluthur Gopalan

In this article, you will read through the journey of Dr. C. Gopalan, a celebrated nutritionist from India. He is credited for developing several public health nutrition programs in India.  

Who was Dr. C. Gopalan?

Late Dr. C. Gopalan was a nutritionist. A nutritionist is an expert at matters related to food and its impact on health.

C. Gopalan
Image Credit: http://www.nutritionfoundationofindia.res.in

Qualifications of Dr. C. Gopalan

He did his M.D. in Medicine but destiny had different plans for him. Fresh out of the college, he was so deeply moved by the famine of Bengal in the 1940s that he decided to shift his path to solve India's nutrition-related medical problems. He was the first Indian Nuffield Scholar and did his Ph.D. in Nutrition from London. He returned to India and joined the Nutrition Research Lab and the rest, as they say, is history.

Contributions of Dr. C. Gopalan

He is regarded among the most renowned medical researchers from India and his leadership in nutritional research in India is undisputed. 
He had an exhaustive list of academic honors. The International Union of Nutritional Sciences which is considered as the most authoritative voice in nutritional sciences has declared him as a "Living Legend" in 2013 for his distinguished professional career spanning over seven decades. 

Based on his India-centric works, several nutritional programs were launched by the Govt. of India to reduce the burden of nutritional diseases. For his contributions, he has been awarded both Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri by Govt. of India, which is a rare feat for non-clinical doctors in India. 

Psotions Held by Dr. C. Goplalan

While working for Govt. of India he held high public offices such as the President of the National Institute of Nutrition and Director General of Indian Council of Medical Research. 

Post-retirement from Govt. service he was inclined towards the NGO sector and held important positions such as the President of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences, and Chairman of Regional Advisory Committee on Medical Research, WHO. 

He himself founded two NGOs in India to further advance the cause of nutritional sciences in India. These are the Nutrition Society of India and Nutrition Foundation of India and they have been highly successful at putting nutrition at the center of policymaking in India.

Legacy of Dr. C. Gopalan

He authored more than 200 papers and a dozen books, but, his most significant research contributions are towards understanding the causes of malnutrition-related diseases, namely, Kwashiorkor, Marasmus, Beri-beri, and Pellagra. Another extremely important area of his work is related to identifying the nutritional requirements of pregnant women, feeding mothers, infants, and young children. His book titled Nutritive Value of Indian Foods is still considered as a bible for Indian nutritionists.

Dr. C. Gopalan died nearing 101 years of age, in Oct-2019. Till shortly before his death, he stayed with his children and grandchildren at Chennai and worked from his home guiding the countrymen and the whole developing world on how to solve their unique medical problems related to nutrition.

"Look to the farms, not the pharmacies" 
(A popular advice given to nutritionists by Dr. C. Gopalan)

Do you feel inspired by his journey? Feel free to share your views.

References and Further Reading

1. Coluthur Gopalan: a legend in nutrition science
2. IUNS declares Dr C Gopalan as living legend 
3. Classics in Indian Medicine C.Gopalan 
5. Former DG ICMR Dr C. Gopalan passes away at 101

Views expressed are personal

Author Profile

Dr. Naval Asija is a New Delhi based non-clinical doctor having health administration postgraduate training. Since 2018, he has been writing/blogging full time on health issues. In the past, he has worked for a decade in healthcare, in different organizations, namely Innodata India Pvt. Ltd., Win-Medicare Pvt. Ltd., National Institute of Health and Family Welfare, Integrated Disease Surveillance Project and National Polio Surveillance Project. The author can be contacted through https://www.linkedin.com/in/navalasija/

Journey of a Non Clinical Doctor


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