Increasing number of Indians are among the 1.46 billion people who are obese or overweight across the world, marking a significant shift in global figures: the majority of the obese are now in the developing rather than the developed world.
A major study released on Friday by the London-based Overseas Development Institute (ODI) said that between 1980 and 2008, the number of people affected by obesity in the developing world more than tripled, from 250 million to 904 million.
"What has changed is that the majority of people who are overweight or obese today can be found in the developing, rather than the developed, world", it said in the report titled ‘Future Diets: Implications for Agriculture and Food Prices’.
The percentage of obese and overweight in India rose from about 9% of the population in 1980 to 11% in 2008. The study said there had been an "explosion in overweight and obesity" in the last 30 years, when the global percentage of adults overweight or obese grew fro 23% in 1980 to 34 in 2008. This could lead to serious health implications, it said.
ODI said that India’s consumption of animal products is approaching that of China’s in terms of its contribution to the average plate, but the increase is almost entirely in milk consumption, with only limited increases for meat, despite increase in income levels. "Many Indians are vegetarian, avoiding beef or pork for cultural and religious reasons.
The consumption of pulses remains relatively high in India, although it has been on the decline", it said. "Diets are changing wherever incomes are rising in the developing world, with a marked shift from cereals and tubers to meat, fats and sugar, as well as fruit and vegetables", the study said.
It added: "There seems to be little will among public and leaders to take the determined action that is needed to influence future diets, but that may change in the face of the serious health Implications".
Steve Wiggins, one of the authors of the report, said: "Politicians need to be less shy about trying to influence what food ends up on our plates. The challenge is to make healthy diets viable whilst reducing the appeal of foods which carry a less certain nutritional value."