Obesity levels are rising in India, UN figures have revealed, risking “catastrophic” rates of diabetes and heart disease.
While child stunting and undernutrition have declined in India over the past decade, nine million more people have become obese, bringing the total to 34 million.
Cheap and unhealthy foods spilling onto the market are to blame, experts said.
The UN has called rising obesity rates around the world “alarming” and said it will lead to an increase in non-communicable diseases, including diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
India is already suffering from a diabetes crisis, with an estimated 77 million diabetics – ranking second in the world. This disease is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke and lower limb amputation.
“Diabetes rates in India are catastrophic,” said Professor Corinna Hawkes, who specializes in food policy at the City of London. The telegraph. “It’s really bad – it leads to complications, amputations and costs a fortune to manage.”
Experts say that all projections estimate that obesity rates in India will increase in the coming years.
“Foods that lead to obesity are more affordable and available in the market,” she said. “A lot of people in India feed on street vendors and restaurants. These are high in oil and often fried.
Salty and sweet snacks have also become popular, and the country has seen a “noodle revolution” – ready-to-eat packets filled with carbohydrates and fats, she said.
“Our infant and young child feeding practices are among the worst in the world. Thus, we disadvantage our children from an early age so that they become metabolically unhealthy and suffer from non-communicable diseases earlier in their adult lives,” added Dr Shweta Khandelwal of the Public Health Foundation of India.
Dr Khandelwal also blamed the “huge rise” in diabetes on a lack of concerted policy, saying the government had failed to align nutrition, health, agriculture, finance and development to work together and form coherent policies.
The high price of unhealthy diets
Meanwhile, the general population is “aware but not alarmed, aware but not acting”, Dr Khandelwal said.
India is not an anomaly. Globally, adult obesity nearly doubled from 343.1 million in 2000 to 675.7 million in 2016. Yet, at the same time, the number of hungry people in the world has increased by 150 million since the start of the Covid pandemic and the number of people suffering from chronic undernourishment has increased to 828 million a year. last.
The UN has warned that by encouraging modern agri-food systems, countries have seen an increase in foods that are low in price, high in energy density and of minimal nutritional value. “The health costs of unhealthy diets are high – with diet-related health costs linked to mortality and non-communicable diseases expected to exceed $1.3 trillion per year by 2030,” said the UN.
Professor Hawkes warned that India’s healthcare system is not adept at providing adequate care to the general population for prevalent non-communicable diseases.
Government underfunding and the growth of private providers have pushed the costs of medical treatment to exorbitant levels, and more than 17% of Indian households now bear catastrophic levels of healthcare costs every year, according to the WHO.
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