ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Interpretations and Implications of Increasing Obesity in India

Data on Women from National Health Surveys

The National Family Health Survey-3 and 4 data show that in the past 10 years, overweight/obesity among women in terms of Body Mass Index has increased quite sharply. In the Indian context, undernutrition and obesity are not separate problems. A large proportion of overweight/obese women are undernourished, with small stature, food transition towards more fats and increasingly sedentary lifestyles making them vulnerable towards being overweight/obese. More diversified diet reduces the risk of overweight/obesity. It is suggested that adequate and good quality diversified diets need to be ensured for comprehensive energy and nutrient adequacy. This requires an overhaul of India’s food programmes.

The authors thank the Council for Social Development, Delhi for institutional support.

Increasing overweight and obesity in India has been under the scanner since the turn of the century. With the current levels of rising average relative weight, that is the Body Mass Index (BMI),1 global health experts concerned with the economic impact of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in developing countries see the rising levels of obesity as a risk factor (Bloom et al 2014). The experts of NCDs such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and strokes in India see obesity “as the first wave of a defined cluster of non-communicable diseases called ‘New World Syndrome’ creating an enormous socioeconomic and public health burden in poorer countries” (Kalra and Unnikrishnan 2012: 37). Others argue that it is imperative for India to tackle the “modifiable risk factors” of overweight and obesity for NCD prevention and control (Khandelwal and Reddy 2013). This failure to perceive obesity as a part of the cluster of NCDs with shared roots, and its projection as an

independent “modifiable risk factor” requiring direct interventions underlies the thrust of the current strategy to control NCDs through a biomedical approach to obesity. However, high levels of overweight/obesity coexisting with high levels of undernutrition are still being called the “double burden” of malnutrition.

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Updated On : 29th Jun, 2020
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