Obesity – a growing epidemic in India

Over 30% of the Indian population including children are found to be suffering from potbelly or abdominal obesity. The incidence of metabolic syndrome, characterized by abdominal obesity, high triglyceride, low good cholesterol, high blood pressure and high blood sugar is at an all-time high in the country and continues to rise. The reason for this is the unhealthy lifestyle choices made by majority of the population including consumption of a diet, which predominantly has high trans fats, sugar and cholesterol, long hours spent working in closed spaces with minimal physical exercise and dependence on evils such as alcohol and cigarettes.

Normally once a person’s height stops increasing, most of his/her organs will also stop growing. The weight of the heart, liver of kidney cannot increase after that. Only muscles can build up to some extent. The only thing, after that stage, which can increase the weight of the body, is deposition of fat. Therefore, any weight gain after puberty is invariably due to fat. Though the overall weight can be in the normally acceptable range but any weight gain within that range will be abnormal for that person. One should not gain weight of more than 5 kg after the age of 20 years in males and 18 years in females. After the age of 50, the weight should reduce and not increase.

Speaking about the incidence of obesity in India, Padma Shri Awardee Dr KK Aggarwal, President HCFI & Honorary Secretary General IMA said, “An abdominal girth of more than 90 cm in men and 80 cm in women indicates that the person is vulnerable to future heart attacks. Normal weight obesity is the new epidemic in our country. A person can be obese even if his body weight is within the normal range. Even an extra inch of fat around the abdomen can increase the chances of heart disease by 1.5 times. Losing weight can reduce snoring, arthritis pain, blood pressure and also check uncontrolled diabetes. The time has come to raise mass awareness about the need to make smarter lifestyle choices to keep diseases such as diabetes, heart attacks and hypertension at bay. We are at more risk than ever before.”

Potbelly obesity is linked to eating refined carbohydrates and not animal fats. General obesity is linked to eating animal fats. Refined carbohydrates include white rice, white maida, and white sugar. Brown sugar is better than white sugar. Refined carbohydrates are called bad carbohydrates, and animal fat is called bad fat. Trans fat or vanaspati is bad for health. It increases the levels of bad cholesterol and reduces good cholesterol in the body.

Some tips to keep obesity under check
Skip carbohydrates once in a week.
Combine a sweet food with bitter food (for instance choose to cook aloo methi over aloo matar).
Consume bitter green items in foods such as karela, methi, palak, bhindi, etc.
Do not eat trans fats (vanaspati).
Do not consume more than 80 ml of soft drink in a day.
Do not consume sweets with more than 30% sugar.
Avoid maida, rice, and white sugar.
Walk, walk and walk…