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Clarion call against childhood obesity

the hindu

Published: October 21, 2016 00:00 IST | Updated: October 21, 2016 05:41 IST Thrissur, October 21, 2016

Mini Muringatheri

Solution lies in concerted effortsby government and society, says expert

Obesity is a major contributor to lifestyle diseases and increasing rate of childhood obesity has become a cause of concern in India, says Narendra Kumar Arora, Executive Director, INCLEN Trust International, an international network of health professionals.
Mr. Arora was here recently to deliver the annual oration at the Kerala University of Health Sciences on ‘Determinants of Childhood Obesity in India: Implications for Non-Communicable Disease Prevention.

6 crore obese children

“As per a 2016 study there are six crore obese children in the country and another 12 crore children are over-weight. Obesity adversely affects all systems of the body, such as nervous system, respiratory system, kidneys, and endocrine system,” Mr. Arora, a former professor of paediatrics, gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, said.
Studies show that effects of childhood obesity continue into adulthood. The reasons could be biological/genetic, social, economic and behavioural, he added. About 6,000 genes, which come to around 25 per cent of the genome, are in some way connected to obesity. Changes in society — population, economy, nutrition and technology — contribute to obesity. Diseases are closely related to these changes, Mr. Arora said.

Damaging changes

“Interviews with 30 stakeholders from five districts of five States, including those from agricultural departments, food industry and NGOs, pointed at a shift from agriculture to horticulture, and traditional farming to cash crops. Consumption of processed foods has increased. “Nonalcoholic ready-to-drink beverage segment has been growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 13 per cent since 2009. Daily calories from sugar-sweetened beverages and 100 per cent fruit juices among children have increased,” Mr. Arora said. Market growth has been reported for packed foods, frozen foods, and condiments, all with high content of sugar, salt and fats.

Schools’ role

“Children opt for less taxing indoor games these days. School canteens sell junk food and playgrounds have shrunk. These are school-level factors which promote obesity.” The solution lies in the concerted efforts of society and government, he said. Even 1 gram reduction in salt can reduce over 7 per cent deaths of stroke and heart attacks, he said.
“Kerala is the first State in the country to introduce a ‘fat tax’ on burgers, pizzas, doughnuts and tacos served in branded restaurants.” If we can curtail the availability of obesity-creating foods, increase taxes on them, and educate the public, governmental intervention will be effective, he said.

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