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16 per cent students overweight: Survey

It’s not just children from affluent families who are piling on the pounds by gorging on junk food and colas.

mumbai Updated: Feb 16, 2010 01:28 IST
Neha Bhayana

It’s not just children from affluent families who are piling on the pounds by gorging on junk food and colas.

A survey conducted in one civic and 10 private SSC schools, which largely cater to children from middle-class families, showed that nearly 16 per cent of the students were overweight or pre-obese with their Body Mass Index (BMI) falling between 25 and 30.

A BMI (calculated by dividing one's weight by the square of the height) falling in the range 18 to 25 is considered healthy. Six per cent of the students were obese with a BMI of more than 30.

It is no surprise when you consider that 82 per cent of them ate snacks like samosa, vada pav, burgers and pizzas during their lunch breaks.

Ten doctors and medical students from the Topiwala National Medical College, attached to Nair Hospital in Mumbai Central, conducted the survey as part of their project ‘Catch Them Young’ to educate children about healthy living with the aim of preventing obesity and related diseases.

The team interviewed a random sample of 1,263 students, aged between 11 and 14 years, from schools in south and central Mumbai over the past two weeks.

“The students get lunch boxes from home but prefer to eat in the canteen,” said Dr Rahul Shewale, who is co-ordinating the project. He added that the students also eat at street-side stalls and fast food joints like McDonalds regularly. (see box)

Worse, the children were not doing anything to burn those extra calories. Nearly 50 per cent of them did not participate in any physical activity and more than 40 per cent spent more than two hours a day in front of the television.

The doctors held talks at the schools to make students aware of the consequences of their sedentary lifestyle and gave them tips to stay fit.

“We have also gifted weighing machines and height measuring scales to schools so they can regularly monitor the BMI of the students,” said Dr Shewale.

Based on the team’s suggestions, principals of Balmohan Vidyamandir School in Dadar and St Joseph School, Mumbai Central, are considering making fresh fruits available in their canteens.

The project was undertaken for a contest — helpyourbody Mumbai — organised by Piramal Healthcare. Students from five other medical colleges are also participating in the project.