Young But Obese India

Alarming rise in obesity among children and youth is ruining the potential of Indian Health and Development

Living in a tech-savvy ready-made society, people are seeking instant solutions for every aspect of their lives. Especially for eating nowadays, they are preferring home delivery of food and drink from hotels, restaurants, cafeterias and food shops among others. They are used to have spicy, oily, palatable dishes, junk foods, and various kinds of high calorific drinks. People are becoming inactive in cooking food at home for themselves but are becoming addicted to buttered snacks and pastries. Thus, they usually take several times more calories than our normal necessity. As a result of this people are being obese at an alarming rate.

Recent studies by the National Family Health Survey-5, published by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, have shown that one in every four Indians is now obese. It is not only in India but also a global problem. According to the report by the World Health Organization, 13+ percent of the world’s adult population is obese among which 11+ percent are men and 15+ percent are women. Also, WHO says that the prevalence of obesity worldwide nearly tripled between the years 1975 and 2016. Now it is 2022, and the situation is getting worse gradually.

Obesity implies being overweight in the human body and is defined as abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that may scare our good health. The word “Obesity” comes from the Latin ‘Obesitas’ which means ‘stout, fat, or plump’. In the phonetics of ‘Obesitas,’ ‘esus’ is the past participle form of the verb ‘edere’ which means ‘to eat’, with ‘ob’ which implies ‘over’, added to it. In Ayurveda Obesity is known by the terminology ‘STHOULYA’. The word ‘Obesity’ was first used in 1611 by American lexicographer Randle Cotgrave in the Oxford English Dictionary to indicate overweight. Today this ‘Obesity’ seems to be a global hazard to humanity.

As per WHO’s norm, obesity is measured by the calculation of one’s Body Mass Index or BMI. BMI is a very simple index of weight-for-height of a body. It is calculated as a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of that person’s height in meters. WHO defines anybody having BMI less than 18.5 as underweight and someone having BMI between 18.5-24.9 as normal weight. A range of BMI between 25.0-29.9 implies overweight and someone having BMI greater than 30.0 is called obese. There are three types of obesity to BMI. BMI between 30.0-34.9 belongs to class 1 obesity, BMI between 35.0-39.9 belongs to class 2 obesity and BMI greater than or equal to 40.0 belongs to class 3 obesity which is very dangerous.

Fundamentally obesity occurs because of consuming a rich diet daily. Such kinds of food habits create an imbalance between calories consumed and calories expanded. People are being fanciful to have energy-dense foods high in fat and sugar every time. They like to taste those foods to which free sugar has been added. Free sugar is added to junk foods, some cereals, and flavored yogurts. These are charming to taste but should be avoided. This sugar is naturally found in honey, syrups, and fruit juices and it causes havoc and damage to our health. So we need to eat less of these foods. Another big reason to make people obese is leading a sedentary lifestyle with lots of physical inactivities. People are being more machine oriented to do normal stuff. As a result of this, they’re becoming too lazy to work hard. They desire to have some sweets rather than release some sweat from their body. Increasing urbanization, changing nature of work due to the abundance of technology, and changing modes of transportation also cause excessive assemblage of fat over the human body.

Also, there are some physiological reasons to create obesity. Genetic Susceptibility, Chronic medication, Mental disorders, Endocrine disorders, and even some unwanted disruptions of chemicals cause obesity in the human body.

Due to this extra baggage of amassed fat over the human body, people are facing several major ailments. Nowadays it has become the main cause of non-communicable diseases or NCDs. The systematic effects of obesity are cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease, hypertension, stroke among others, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, musculoskeletal problems like osteoarthritis: a highly disabling degenerative disease of joints like sarcopenia, sleep apnea, depression, social stigmatization and some cancers including endometrial, breast, ovarian, prostate, liver, gallbladder, kidney, and colon cancer. Also, it causes colorectal cancer. In the case of Class 3 obesity, it may result in a reduction of the span of life, loss of dynamicity, weakness, foul smell in the body and loss of libido among others. Every year due to its adverse effect knee replacement cases increase day by day. Due to this morbid obesity, almost 2.8 million people die worldwide every year.


But for childhood cases, obesity makes their future at various risks like disability in adulthood, breathing difficulties, psychological disorders, stigmatization, and even premature death. On this note, recent findings in the National Family Health Survey-5 indicate an increase in childhood obesity in India. According to the report of the World Obesity Federation, India is expected to have over 27 million obese children by 2030. It also says that one in ten obese children globally to be from India by 2030. By the near future in India, obese children among the age group of 5-9 years will be 10.82 percent, and obese teenagers among the age group of 10-19 years will be 6.23 percent of the total population of children and teenagers respectively. This is highly alarming! It seems India is not likely to meet WHO’s commitment to half the rise in childhood obesity by 2025. While discussing this matter of obesity among children, Dr Sourav Ghosh, Assistant Professor, Department of Allied Health Science, Brainware University concerned that nowadays children don’t play on the ground, rather they’re addicted to digital screens. They are living languid lives and have a fatty diet now and then. As a result of this, the future of those children goes in danger. He urges, “It is high time for the parents to make their children physically active to prevent the disease shortly”.

WHO predicts nearly 167 million people globally to be obese by 2025. And in India as per the National Family Health Survey-5, obesity among women has increased from 21 percent in 2015-16 to 24 percent in 2019-20, and among men, it has increased to 23 percent in 2019-20 from 19 percent in 2015-16. This report signifies the cruciality of obesity in India. It says the Rise of Obesity among children (age group 5-9 years), teenagers(age group 10-19 years), youth(age group 20-35 years), and middle-aged people(age group 45+ years) is scary. A recent large-scale survey in 2021 shows that the youth of India is at risk of obesity. During the pandemic, there are numbers of seasonal, structural, frictional, trade cycles, temporary and disguised unemployment in India, and a study shows they’re getting obese. Thus, Young India’s potential is being criticized negatively due to the deadly obesity!

Recently the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation released the “Youth in India 2022” report. This report is formed by the Technical Group on Population Projections constituted by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. This report says children of the age group of 0-14 years comprise 25.7 percent, youths of the age group of 15-29 years comprise 27.2 percent, and middle-aged (30-59 years) people comprise 32.8 percent of the total population of India in 2021. This simply tells us that India has more than 52 percent of its total population below the age group of 30 and these youths are havocly suffering from obesity which makes their lives in great distress. Due to obesity, they’re suffering from problems of being lethargic, depressed, having hormonal disorders, menstrual problems, loss of libido, and becoming infertile at an early age. This “Youth in India 2022” report also refers to a major percentage decline in the number of youths. It predicts by 2036, the number of youth will decline to nearly 42 percent from 52 percent in 2021. And the major reason for this decline in the youth population is infertility and obesity is causing infertility among the youth at an alarming rate. So obesity can be a strong reason to weaken the potential of Young India. That’s why it’s urgent to fight back against this menace.

Author Neil D’Silva, before and after shedding 21 kilograms weight

A finding published in BMJ Global Health claims that obesity and other ailments related to weight are costing India around one percent of its gross domestic product annually. To solve this problem of obesity, the “WHO Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health” proposes actions needed to support healthy diets and regular physical activity. As obesity in brief is an imbalance between weight gain and weight loss, Dr Tuhin Kanti Biswas, Professor, and Head of the Department of Kayachikitsa, JB Roy State Ayurvedic Medical College and Hospital, Kolkata, thinks that diet is the most important cause of obesity and prevention of obesity can best be done by reduction of caloric values in daily diet. Just we need a supportive environment and healthy diets to reduce extra fat. Dr Biswas also believes in the management of obesity rather than taking unsolicited medication. He suggests, “The Principle of management of obesity according to Ayurveda is the intake of diet which are heavy in quality and non-nutritious in nature (in Sanskrit: Guru ch atarpanam chestang sthulanam karshang prati)”.

Besides this, to reduce the burden of obesity we’ve to exercise daily. Walking, Working and Running is the best way to burn calories. After consumption of each meal, we’ve to walk for at least fifteen minutes. The best-seller horror author Neil D’Silva was suffering from obesity and he was scared of it. He was 86 kg and started walking first, and then running every day to get rid of it. It is today after a year and a half he makes himself so fit and transforms himself into a 29-inch waist from deadly 36 inches. He is now only 65 kg and passionate about running a half marathon every weekend. He energetically says, “Now, running has become a habit, a passion. I no longer run to stay fit; now I stay fit so that I can run. I hope to run a full marathon one day!”. And also I’ve started running to get rid of my extra baggage of fat, already. What are you waiting for? Run every day and stay safe.

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