Obesity common among Indians hooked to packed foods

New Delhi: Other than decreasing physical activity, increased usage of packed foods and a calorie-laden diet has led to greater obesity among Indians in the last two decades, public health experts said here Wednesday.

The new dietary dynamics are pushing people to diabetes, heart diseases and metabolic disorders.

"In the last 20 years, India has gone through vast socio-economic transitions which have affected the dietary patterns much faster than it affected people in the West," University of North Carolina department of nutrition professor B.M. Popkin said at a seminar on public health and nutrition here.

"In the urban India, due to the `supermarket` culture, we have packed foods reaching every household, causing obesity and problems of over-nutrition," he added.

According to studies conducted by Popkin, societies in China and India have been relying on diet with high saturated fats, sugar and refined foods.

"In markets of India and China, there is a high percentage of imported products. There are oils, noodles, cereals that are packed and ready-to-make - all not with high nutritional value," Popkin said about studies published in International Journal of Obesity in 2004.

While experts have been constantly emphasising on the problem of rising obesity among children and urban Indians, the need for a "nutrition policy in the country" has also been a point of focus for the Planning Commission.

"India urgently needs a nutrition policy that includes factors such as how food inflation is affecting food habits, what are the demographic changes, why we do not have nutritional research, addressing inclusion of nutritious foods in our agricultural policy and a lot other issues," said Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) head K.S. Reddy.

"Pulses, fruits, vegetables, edible oils have gone up in prices, affecting the food habits - both in terms of undernutrition and overnutrition. This makes it necessary to engage with these challenges in the next financial plan (2012-17)," added Reddy, who is Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s personal physician.


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