20 July 2010
Responsible Advertising Is Small Step In Checking Obesity March. Buck Stops With Parents, Say Docs
The decision of seven major food and beverage companies to commit themselves to responsible child–centric advertising and marketing may go some way in checking the ongoing obesity march in the city, say doctors. But first the extent of the problem: Consider the fact that tweens, according to Western studies, take between 12,000 and 15,000 steps a day. But, in aamchi Mumbai that is starved of green space, boys and girls barely manage 10,000 steps a day.
Combine this low activity with easy access to an array of junk food–be it pizzas bursting with cheese or masala chips stocked in mesmerising varieties at the neighbourhood shops–and it is not surprising that Mumbai’s growing children are a tad on the heavier side.
“I wouldn’t say that our children are obese, but about 25% of them are overweight,” says Dr Aashish Contracter, preventive cardiologist from Asian Heart Institute who conducted the first–ever survey on children and obesity in a school at Vashi. The low tread count was gleaned from his study.
“The issue is about the quality and the quantity of food along with the lack of activity. Children tend to put on weight as a result and this indirectly contributes to the increased risk of diabetes, heart attack, blood pressure, etc,” says Dr Contracter.
Dr Archana Juneja, endocrinologist with Fortis Mulund Hospital, is worried. “Obesity is a growing problem. Around 20–30% of our adolescent population are either obese or overweight,” she says, adding that the extra weight starts piling up at as young an age as five. A recent survey of 3,211 students in Classes VII, VIII & IX, conducted by Nair Hospital in Mumbai Central, showed that 15.7% were overweight and another 6.6% were obese.
Among 78% of the children who were interviewed confessed that they ate packaged chips. Worse, as the survey team pointed out, an alarming 70.76% consumed chips daily.
It is this snacking habit that nutritionist Shilpa Joshi finds the most unhealthy. “There are many children who not only eat one pack but two at a time. Then, they have a packaged fruit drink that their mothers think is healthy. But all that the child has got is high calories,” she says.
Will the corporate initiative to curb advertising aimed at children help in checking the obesity march? Dr Juneja feels it is a small step that could show results in the long run. As a societal initiative, Dr Contracter says it will definitely help. Joshi feels that it is up to the parents to drive the message home. All experts underline that curbing obesity is the job of a family. “Obesity is a familial problem. Children eat what parents eat. Only parents can change children’s habits,” says Dr Juneja.
According to Joshi, “We have to ingrain in children that there is nothing as healthy as home food. Getting them to eat a fruit every day–even if it is a banana or guava – is the best thing that parents can do.”
A recent American study showed that children who ate with their parents were healthier and leaner than those who did not. “Eating together as a family is one of the healthiest practices,” says Dr Juneja.
- Around 25% of Mumbai’s children are overweight
- Around 20–30% of our adolescent population are either overweight or sufering from obesity
- In a Mumbai that is starved of green space, boys and girls barely manage 10,000 steps a day. A healthy tread count according to many international studies is 12,000 to 15,000 steps every day
- Extra weight starts piling up at as young an age as 5
- A recent survey of 3,211 students in Classes VII, VIII & IX, conducted by Nair Hospital in Mumbai Central showed that 15.7% were over–weight and another 6.6% were obese
The healthy option
A healthy tiffin box for your child