26 October 2009
By Pratibha Masand
The World Health Organisation (WHO) pegs the numbers of obese people at over 300 million worldwide, with a billion more overweight. The problem in India is mainly in the metro politan cities as compared to other places.
According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), overweight and obesity are more than three times higher in urban centres as compared to rural areas.
The NFHS figures suggest that the proportion of obesity in Indian cities is increasing at 33–51% every few years. In pure statistical terms, about 27% of the urban population is overweight as compared to 11% in rural areas. And, more women seem to be overweight as compared to men. NFHS says 24% of urban women are overweight. “Obesity in adults is still understandable. But we are seeing 8–year–olds who are obese. Even 12–year–olds are suffering from diabetes and hypertension today,” said Naini Setalvad, a nutritionist.
“On an average, 16% of city children are overweight while 6% are morbidly obese. Even by Indian standards, these percentages are high,” said Dr Mufazzal Lakdawala, bariatric surgeon.
Dr Ramen Goel, bariatric surgeon with Bombay Hospital, said: “The sedentary lifestyle of Indians is the main reason behind increasing number of obese people. The food we eat – both traditional and modern – is high on calories. Plus, most people are inert and have absolutely no exercise in their daily routine,” said Dr Goel. Apart from the lifestyle, there are reasons beyond human control as well, contributing to making India a country of obese people. According to doctors, the Body Mass Index (BMI) of Indians is much lower than their Caucasian counterparts. “If an Indian and an American put on 5 kg, the Indian will have that much fat as compared to the American, who would have gained more muscles,” Dr Goel explained.
The BMI cut–off for bariatric surgery for an Indian is 32.5 while that for an American is 35. As obesity brings with it a plethora of other diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes, hypertension and cholesterol, doctors say it is better to nip the disease in the bud.