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30 Jul, 2014

The consequences of Indian kids eating like the Americans – The Hindu

One of the first declarations of the newly elected government in June was a proposal to ban unhealthy or junk food (defined as food high on fat, sugar and salt) in school canteens across the country. This was followed up with an increase in the prices of soft drinks in the recent budget.

This has been part of a long-standing demand of child rights activists, nutritionists and public health experts to discourage the availability of fast food and other food items containing unhealthy ingredients. This includes a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) plea in the Delhi High Court demanding a ban on junk food and carbonated drinks in schools and on their sale within a radius of 500 yards.

There is no disagreement among health and nutrition experts that the ‘developed’ world is in the grip of an obesity epidemic and ‘developing’ countries like India are fast following suit. The World Health Organisation (WHO) warns that more than 40 million children under the age of five were overweight or obese in 2012. If left unchecked, this figure would rise to 70 million by 2015.

While underweight continues to be a crucial problem in terms of burden of disease in developing countries, obesity is fast catching up and can hardly be ignored. In developing countries, the prevalence of childhood obesity in preschool children is in excess of 30 per cent. Thus, countries like India carry the ‘double burden’ of high levels of malnutrition caused by food insecurity and growing levels of obesity caused by diets high in sugar, oil and salt along with sedentary lifestyle.

Read the rest: The fast food bomb – The Hindu.