- Geeta Pandey
- bbc news
India was at the top of the world for a long time in terms of children who are short for their age. Now obesity among children in India has risen to alarming levels and experts fear that if not addressed immediately, it may also take the form of an epidemic.
When 14-year-old Mihir Jain arrived at Delhi’s Max Hospital in 2017 in a wheelchair to seek advice from bariatric surgeon Dr. Pradeep Choubey, the doctor could not believe his eyes.
Dr Choubey recalls, “Mihir was very fat, could not stand well and could barely open his eyes. He weighed 237 kg and had a body mass index (BMI) of 92.”
According to the World Health Organization, a person is considered obese if a BMI is greater than 25.
After several weeks of treatment and fat removal surgery, Mihir’s weight became 165 kg in 2018.
At that time Mihir Jain was said to be the heaviest teenager in the world. It may be an exaggeration to say this, but there is also a fact that there are about 18 lakh overweight children in India and this number is increasing.
According to the latest data from the National Family Health Survey (this survey was conducted in 2019-21), 3.4 percent of children under the age of five in India are overweight. In 2015-16, that figure was 2.1 percent.
The NFHS survey is the most comprehensive survey on health and social indices in India conducted by the Government of India.
These numbers may seem small, but Dr. Arjan de Vagt, head of nutrition affairs for UNICEF in India, says that India’s population is very large, so even a small percentage may be in actually a very large number.
According to UNICEF’s 2022 Global Atlas of Obesity, more than 27 million children in India may be overweight. In other words, by 2030, one in ten obese children in the world will be in India.
India ranks 99th out of 183 countries in the preparedness index to fight obesity and reduce its economic impacts. The impact of obesity on the economy is $23 billion in 2019, rising to $479 billion in 2060.
Dr Arjan de Vagt says: “We are seeing a very serious obesity problem among children in India. Obesity often starts in children and obese children become obese adults.”
This is a major cause of concern for health experts. According to the World Health Organization, having excess body fat increases the risk of spreading non-communicable diseases. These include 13 types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart and lung disease. This is why people die prematurely. Last year, 2.8 million deaths worldwide were caused by obesity.
In recent years, India has already ranked among the top five countries in the world in terms of obesity among adults. According to an estimate made in 2016, about 135 million people in India were overweight or obese. This number is continuously increasing.
Dr. de Vogt says that “36 percent of children under 5 in India are still short for their age. The more we do against malnutrition, the more damage is done to them.”
“At the same time there are moments of malnutrition and overfeeding in people. Both weight gain and obesity are caused by overfeeding. But this does not mean that everyone gets enough food. as much as they need.”
He says the biggest problem is that people don’t have complete information about nutrition. One type of feeding is illiteracy.
“If children are given a balanced diet that includes carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, fruits and vegetables, it will solve the problem of both undernutrition and overnutrition. But people are not aware of what is the right food. Yes, people eat to fill their stomachs, take in more carbohydrates or eat readily available foods.”
After 2030, one in ten fat children in the world will be in India
Dr de Vogt says the data shows childhood obesity is a problem across all social and economic classes, but it’s more so in wealthy cities where children are fed diets high in fat, sugar and salt.
In 2019, Max Healthcare conducted a survey in Delhi and its surrounding suburbs. 40% of children (ages 5-9), adolescents (ages 10-14) and teenagers (ages 15-17) were found to be obese or overweight.
Dr. Choubey says, “Teenagers sleep late and tend to eat dinner, most of which are health-threatening snacks.”
“After eating late at night, they go to sleep and wake up late. They are lazy and lethargic. This means their bodies are not able to use much energy. Also nowadays children spend more time on the computer and on the computer instead of playing or running. outside. They spend on mobile. They’re getting even slower.”
He warns, saying: “Obesity affects not only the body and health, but all aspects of our lives. It also includes mental and social attitudes. Obese children often face prejudice and sometimes fall alone.”
Dr. Ravindran Kumaran, founder of the Obesity Foundation of India and a surgeon in the southern Indian city of Chennai, says that if children are not intervened now, we will never be able to solve the obesity problem. obesity in the country.
He says, “If you watch TV for even half an hour, you will see many junk food advertisements. There are also advertisements promoting cold drinks. The persistent false message about junk food being harmful to health. They are given that they should stop. And only the government can do that.”
He also says that to deal with the obesity numbers, we need to get a large number of children out.
“As a nation we are not investing in physical health. Our cities have no footpaths. There are no safe bike lanes and very few playgrounds where children can play.”
Sports Village, an organization that promotes sports among young people, is trying to solve this problem. Its founder and CEO Sumil Mazumdar told the BBC: “Schools are the only places in our country that offer children a safe playground. So schools should play their part in the fight against obesity”.
A survey of 2,54,000 children has shown that one in every two children has an unhealthy BMI. A large number of children do not have the flexibility. It wasn’t that I had less strength in my stomach or core. Not only that, his performance was also poor in terms of upper and lower body strength.
Says Majumdar: “This is not just a political problem. All schools have physical education classes. But only children who are good get attention. In this situation, children who are not interested in sports, are they offer these classes. I don’t enjoy it.”
“We believe that just as children acquire basic knowledge of all subjects at school, they should also be taught how to keep their bodies fit.”
“In many cases we’ve seen a 5 to 17 percent improvement in fitness. We’ve also been able to motivate more girls to play. I think playing can solve all problems.”