07 November 2011
By Pratibha Masand
The changing snacking trends among urban kids can lead to chronic health problems later in life, say doctors. Besides obesity, diabetes and hypertension, which may stem from prolonged intake of packaged or junk food, children may also suffer from certain kinds of cancer, if not careful.
Nutritionists say packaged snacks do not have the same nutrition value of a freshly prepared meal. In fact, prolonged consumption of certain components in these foods, coupled with physical inactivity, can cause obesity among children and teenagers. “Urban children have developed a taste for maida. Everything–from instant noodles, to pasta and even bread–includes maida. These give instant calories and energy as maida gets absorbed fast. But there is no satiety value,” said Vibha Kapadia, a nutritionist. A child is thus never satisfied after eating large quantities of these foods and still feels hungry, she said.
Since children tend to play and thus have physical exercise, the instant foods do not show their effect immediately. However, in the teenage years the obesity starts showing. “Though these foods appeal to children, they are high on fat and salts. The biggest problem is they lack fibre and are high on glycemic index. Continuous consumption of such foods coupled with lack of physical activity causes obesity especially in teenagers,” said Dr Shilpa Joshi, from the Indian Dietician Association.
City doctors fear an addiction to junk and instant food can cause major health crises later. “The habit of cooking and eating instant food is a lifestyle problem in itself. One or two packets in a month is a different matter, but if children are given instant food every other day due to lack of time to prepare a fresh meal, then mothers are playing with their child’s health themselves,” said Dr Hemant Thacker, physician with Jaslok and Breach Candy Hospitals.
Head of Tata Memorial Hospital, Dr Rajan Badwe says an unhealthy diet is a major contributor to cancer among those with sustained obesity. “Adolescent obesity is known to produce diabetes, hypertension and certain cancers like those of breast, ovary and uterus in women and stomach, kidney and colon in men in later years,” he said. Parents need to be role models for kids and keep a watch on what they eat and how much, say doctors. “Until the age of fivesix, till a child is exposed to media, birthday parties and peers, he/she eats whatever the parents eat. If parents don’t eat
much junk food, the child will not have a habit of eating them,” said Sonal Modi, nutritionist with DENMARC. “Restrictions don’t help with older children. Instead, whatever the child eats outside, make it yourself (not with the help of packets) at home with slight modifications to make it more nutritious,” she added.