There has been an increase in obesity among children under five, with 33 states and union territories seeing an increase in the number of overweight children, according to the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS). .
Experts have attributed the rise in obesity to lack of physical activity and poor eating habits.
The number of overweight children increased from 2.1% in NFHS-4 to 3.4% in NFHS-5.
Not just in children, obesity in women and men has also increased.
The percentage of overweight women fell from 20.6% to 24% while among men the number fell from 18.9% to 22.9%, according to the NFHS-5.
According to NFHS-5, several states and union territories including Maharashtra, Gujarat, Mizoram, Tripura, Lakshadweep, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, West Bengal, ‘Andhra Pradesh and Ladakh, recorded an increase in the percentage of obesity. in children under five compared to the NFHS-4 conducted between 2015 and 2016.
Only Goa, Tamil Nadu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and Daman and Diu have seen declines in the number of overweight children under five, the data shows.
According to survey data, 30 states and union territories recorded an increase in obesity among women while 33 states and UTs recorded an increase in obesity among men.
Males and females were counted as obese with body mass index greater than or equal to 25.0 kg/m2, while childhood obesity was counted in terms of weight for height.
Health experts have attributed the rise in obesity to unhealthy food choices and lack of physical activity among children and even adults.
Poonam Muttreja, Executive Director of Population Foundation of India, said that behind the trend of increasing obesity among Indian women, men and children over the past 15 years, confirmed by NFHS-5, there are rising incomes, poor eating habits and unhealthy lifestyle choices. .
“Sustained economic growth over the past 15 years has resulted in a marked increase in people’s incomes. We know that obesity among Indians increases as they get richer. In 2015-16, according to NFHS-4, the proportion of overweight or obese men was 5% among families in the lowest wealth quintile and 33% in the highest wealth quintile,” she said.
“Similarly, the proportion of women who were overweight or obese was 6% in families in the lowest wealth quintile and 36% in the highest wealth quintile.
However, blaming rising incomes is not fair. A lot also has to do with poor eating habits. Consumption of unhealthy foods (commonly referred to as junk foods) high in calories from sugar or fat and low in dietary fibre, protein, vitamins and minerals is known to increase as families get richer,” said said Muttreja.
Besides these problems, a large majority of Indians do not seem to recognize the importance of leading a healthy and active life. They tend to lead sedentary lives and lack the motivation to exercise of any kind, including walks.
Unfortunately, parents don’t seem to realize the detrimental consequences of these lifestyle choices they make on children’s health and nutritional well-being, she added.
Dr Antaryami Dash, Head of Nutrition, Save the Children, India, said that every nation is entering a situation of double burden of malnutrition where undernutrition (stunting/wasting/underweight) and overnutrition (overweight/ obesity) at the population level. Prevalence is highest in Western and industrialized countries, but is gradually catching up in developing countries.
“Although current understanding of the health consequences of overweight and obesity is primarily based on studies of adults, growing evidence suggests that childhood obesity has a number of immediate, intermediate and long-term on health. This results from an obesogenic environment, which includes altering food systems and reducing physical activity,” Dash said.
He said that while cost-effective interventions such as WHO’s “best buys” have been identified, political will and implementation have so far been limited.
There is a need for effective programs and policies across multiple sectors to address overnutrition, undernutrition, mobility and physical activity, he added.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)