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Healthy food + exercise = Fit

A lot of healthy food and a little activity can lower risk of diabetes and heart disease among 15-17 year-olds, shows a first of its kind study from South Asia published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, reporst Sanchita Sharma.

health and fitness Updated: Jan 29, 2010 23:37 IST
Sanchita Sharma

A lot of healthy food and a little activity can lower risk of diabetes and heart disease among 15-17 year-olds, shows a first of its kind study from South Asia published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The study, done among 201 students in two south Delhi schools by the Diabetes Foundation India, showed that intensive school-based nutrition and lifestyle interventions improve the health of both boys and girls within six months.

Class IX students from two South Delhi schools — St. Paul’s in Safdarjung Development Area and Greenfields School in Safdarjung Enclave — participated in the study.

One school was exposed to intense counselling and exposure to healthy food in school cafeteria, while the other was given once-a-week lectures on nutrition and health.

Next, changes in nutrition-related knowledge, attitude, lifestyle practices, food habits and body image were tested using a validated questionnaire.

Anthropometric measurements, biochemical tests were also done, along with body fat analysis.

“Childhood obesity is a high 29 per cent among 14-17 year olds in upper- and middle-income families in Delhi (Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition) and the new study validates that intensive interventions can impact health parameters within a very short period,” said Dr Anoop Misra, director, department of diabetes and metabolic diseases, Fortis Hospitals, who led the study.

“The physical parameters used to measure the health benefits were reduced abdominal fat and increased muscle mass, while biomedical markers such as reduced fasting blood glucose, high good cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein or HDL) and low C-reactive protein, all of which lower risk of diabetes and heart disease,” said Dr Misra.

Heart-protective good cholesterol levels rose by 2 per cent in students following a healthy lifestyle as compared to HDL levels dropping by an average of 4 per cent in students in the control group.

“Every one per cent rise in HDL offers 2 per cent heart protection, which roughly translates into 10 per cent protection against heart disease from HDL alone,” said Misra.

Neha Singhal from Diabetes Foundation India said, “School-based interventions can reach large populations and simple measures such as making school cafeterias healthier and encouraging students to get packed lunch from home can bring down childhood obesity.”