Is India Battling An Obesity Epidemic?

Obesity is a medical condition characterized by excessive body fat, which can lead to health problems such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer.

The WHO states that obesity is a significant risk factor for noncommunicable illnesses such as osteoarthritis, endometrial, breast, ovarian, prostate, liver, gallbladder, renal, and type 2 diabetes. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines obesity as having a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. Throughout the past few decades, there has been a steady rise in the prevalence of obesity in India, where it is now thought that over 135 million individuals are obese. One of the world’s fastest-rising obesity rates is in India. According to estimates, India has 135 million obese people.

Obesity is commonly studied as a risk factor for type 2 diabetes and/or cardiovascular morbidities. Yet, there is also a neurological component to both the causes and effects of obesity.

India is going through a very quick epidemiological shift. A population that is overweight and obese is now taking the place of malnutrition and the resultant underweight population. The prevention and control of the obesity epidemic are important aspects of public health policy since obesity is a significant risk factor for the majority of non-communicable diseases.

In 20 of the 22 states where the study was conducted, which was part of the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) 5 survey, which was conducted in the 2019–20 academic year, a sharp increase in childhood obesity was also discovered.

Reasons for obesity in India

A change in eating habits is one of the key factors contributing to India’s obesity pandemic. “Youngster’s diets in India have become more westernized and more dependent on processed and fast foods as a result of the country’s expanding economy. These foods frequently include high levels of calories, sugar, and fat, which can cause weight gain and obesity. Also, the sudden shift in eating habits, sedentary lifestyle, lack of sleep, parenting misconceptions, stress, and the change in eating habits increasing consumption of unhealthy foods is one of the main factors contributing to obesity in India,” says Dr. A. K. Singh, M.D., D.M (Endo), Consultant Endocrinologist, GD Hospital & Diabetes Institute, Kolkata (India).

Food habits have changed due to a number of factors, including simple access to processed and junk food, the time taken to prepare a dish, numerous greasy and processed food-related television commercials, the huge business houses’ branding approach, which focuses on attracting young customers, makes these meals attractive to customers.

Significant economic repercussions from the obesity pandemic have also been felt in India. “Health issues associated with obesity can be very expensive to treat, and they can also result in decreased productivity and higher healthcare expenses. Additionally, because people with lower incomes do not have the means to cover the costs of the medical care required to treat obesity-related health issues, the obesity pandemic could worsen already-existing disparities in healthcare access,” adds Dr Singh.

Combating the obesity pandemic in India has certain difficulties. For instance, it can be challenging to modify cultural norms surrounding food and eating habits, and the accessibility and price of nutritious foods might be an issue in some places. Also, more efforts may be required to educate and raise public knowledge about the dangers of obesity and ways to prevent it.

India currently faces a serious health concern in the form of the obesity epidemic. “Even though attempts are being made to address this problem, more has to be done to encourage wholesome eating practises and physical activity as well as to address the underlying social and economic causes of obesity. It is possible to stop the obesity pandemic and advance a healthier, wealthier India with a coordinated effort by the government, healthcare providers, and individuals,” signs off Singh.

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