Indian children face twin burden: malnutrition and obesity

Health Care, Heart Care Foundation of India, Medicine Comments Off

While concentrated efforts are needed to prevent malnutrition, preventing obesity entails encouraging healthy habits right from a young age

New Delhi, 08 February 2018: As per a recent survey conducted in 10 of the country’s most populous cities, 1 in 4 urban children under the age of five is stunted and suffers from chronic malnutrition. Of the cities surveyed, Delhi ranks first in terms of the highest percentage of severely stunted children (11.7%). On the contrary, child obesity is also an emerging concern with about 2.4% children in the 10 cities found to be overweight or obese.

India is facing a double burden – child obesity on one end and malnutrition on the other. While those in rural India predominantly suffer from stunting and malnutrition, children in urban areas are falling prey to a sedentary lifestyle and consumption of fast food.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee Dr K K Aggarwal, President Heart Care Foundation of India (HCFI) and Immediate Past National President Indian Medical Association (IMA), said, “Wasting and stunting are often two separate forms of malnutrition requiring different interventions for prevention and/or treatment. However, they are closely related and often occur together in the same populations and often in the same children. While this is an issue, another fact is also that children in the urban areas are falling prey to obesity. A multifactorial disorder, unhealthy diet – eating foods high in fats, sugar and salt (junk food, processed food) and a sedentary lifestyle contribute significantly to this escalating epidemic. Today, TV, internet, computer and mobile games have taken precedence over outdoor sports. Childhood obesity is well-recognized as a precursor to obesity in adulthood.”

Children with severe malnutrition experience slow behavioral and intellectual development, leading to intellectual disabilities later in life. Obese children and adolescents are more prone to bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor of IJCP, said, “Even when they are treated, under nutrition can have long-term effects in children including impairments in mental function and digestive problems, which can last for their whole life. Prevention of lifestyle diseases should start early. Schools can help in shaping the lives of students and have a very important role to play in the battle against childhood obesity. Healthy habits in childhood lay a foundation for a healthier adulthood.”

Prevention of malnutrition entails eating a healthy balanced diet. All the four major food groups including carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and dairy should form a part of a child’s diet plan.On the other hand, tackling obesity requires a concentrated effort that includes encouraging healthy eating and ensuring adequate physical activity for kids.