New Delhi: One of the most common advertisements in both the print and electronic media is that of weight loss programmes that promise magical transformation from a fat to a fit figure. Doctors, however, express doubt over the efficacy of such programmes.
Doctors say that obesity, a problem increasingly consuming present-day society and leading to a host of other health complications, needs to be approached more holistically, right from prevention mechanisms targeting children.
"Barring a few programmes that are scientific in nature, most weight loss programmes are absolutely ineffective," Deep Goel, director of the department of GI Oncology and Bariatric Surgery at B.L. Kapoor hospital, told IANS.
In a country where obesity is becoming a mammoth issue, and in turn invites the burden of other problems like cardiovascular disease, kidney problem, high blood pressure, diabetes, even cancer, such weight loss programmes are luring people with new gadgets and diet schedules.
"But truth be told, most of these programmes harbour misconceptions. Liposuction, for instance, is not a weight loss procedure but a conturing procedure. This means that you lose fat in minimal inches - say from 36 inches to 34 inches - but gain it back in three-four months. Starving and crash diets are also ineffective, so are your sauna belts, and many so-called herbal medicines have diuretics which makes you urinate often and lose water, and thus weight, which comes right back after some time," said Goel.
Agreed Sumeet Shah, senior consultant of Max Institute of Minimal Access, Metabolic, and Bariatric Surgery. "In 99 percent cases these weight loss programmes are ineffective, unless under the guidance of a nutritionist and done in a scientific way," he said.
A more effective means to tackle the problem, doctors say, is a healthy lifestyle, with proper eating habits and exercise that can lead one to lose two-three kg of weight a month in a non-drastic manner.
"In a severe case, when the body mass index is more than 40, surgery is needed," Shah told IANS.
But more than the "fire-fighting" approach of treatment, preventive mechanism that takes root right from childhood is the need of the hour, doctors emphasise. Childhood obesity, after all, is increasingly becoming a nightmare in urban India.
"Childhood obesity is the biggest epidemic of the nature of a non-communicable disease," said Sarita Sahi, a Delhi-based paediatrician, adding that India may become the world capital of diabetes and obesity by the year 2030.
"Many surveys have been done, by the National Family Health Survey, as well as by NGOs, on this problem and the Delhi high court order banning junk food in schools is a step to reform this unhealthy trend," she said.
According to Rahul Nagpal, paediatrician at Fortis hospital, there has been a 10-15 percent rise in childhood obesity in the past five years. "Quite a few public schools organise lectures on dietary habits and the importance of exercise, and I have been invited in some to talk on the same," Nagpal said.
One of the culprits for children adopting bad eating habits, according to Shah, is food becoming a source of entertainment.
"Come weekend and most families' idea of entertainment is a trip to the mall and to eat in the food court. Eating high-calorie food with a lot of unsaturated fat on a regular basis, with hardly any outdoor activity, is inviting trouble," he said.
Another misconception when it comes to obesity is that it's a "rich man's disease". "Obesity is not only about overeating but also about eating wrong. Food high in unsaturated fat can cause health problems and so obesity is not restricted to one section of society," Goel said.
Considering that of four preventable causes of cancer, obesity is one, according to WHO, and that 2.8 million people die the world over each year as a result of being overweight or obese, beating the bulge is a serious health concern.