Everywhere, people are getting fatter. Worldwide, obesity has more than doubled since 1980, with 1.5 billion adults over 20 years being overweight and obese in 2008. And with 43 million children under 5 years overweight in 2010, the world is not likely to get leaner anytime soon. Not only are people eating more than they should, but they are also stuffing themselves with the wrong kind of food.
“Continuous caloric intake has become the norm and hunger, which is the physiological basis for eating, doesn’t exist for most people anymore. Two in three people — 65% of the world’s population — live in countries where overweight kills more people than malnutrition,” says Dr Barry Popkin, professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, US, at the Indo-US Seminar on Nutrition Epidemiology.
At least 2.8 million adults die each year due to obessity or overweight, making it fifth leading risk for deaths worldwide. Overweight attributes to 44% of diabetes, 23% of heart disease, and between 7% and 41% of certain cancers.
Oil’s not right
More than carbohydrates, the red flags in the Indian diet are added sugars and edible oils. With food inflation going up steadily, people are shifting from the more expensive and nutritive pulses, foods and vegetables to refined grains, such as wheat and rice.
“This will have a longterm impact on malnutrition. Even a 2% increase in energy from transfats – unhealthy oils used in processed and packaged foods — results in 23% increase in heart risk” says Dr K. Srinath Reddy, president, Public Health Foundation of India.
“Children born with low birthweight to under-nourished mothers are more likely to put on weight when they have high-fat, high-sugar and energy-dense food, which is usually cheaper than fresh food,” says Dr Nikhil Tandon from the department of endocrinology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences. SINKING UNDER, KEELING OVER
Get moving now
It’s not just changes in the way people eat, but also in the way they work, move and spend leisure time that is adding to their weight. “I’ve done rice-paddy work in the Philippines and it’s very hard work. Now I see tractors in India, which is good for the farmer, it doesn’t break his back. But it is making him fat as he hasn’t replaced the activity with anything else,” says Dr Popkin.
“Since people don’t appear to stop eating, they should at least start eating right and get moving more to keep diseases at risk,” says Popkin.