Inside India's Obesity Crisis: How Can We Tackle the 'Silent Epidemic'?

In 2022, one in eight people in the world were living with obesity.

2 min read
Video Editor :Nitin Bisht
Video Editor :Purnendu Pritam

"A ticking time bomb" – that is how experts described the obesity epidemic in India.

According to the World Health Organization, in 2022, one in eight people in the world were living with obesity. 

A recent Lancet study, zooming in on India, said that at least 44 million women and 26 million men, above the age of 20 years, are clinically obese.

Globally, the WHO says that obesity is responsible for:

  • 44 percent cases of diabetes

  • 23 percent cases of ischemic heart disease

  • 7-41 percent of cancer cases

But what does all this data mean for you? Is obesity really a crisis in India?

Is Obesity a Crisis?

Dr HPS Sachdev, Paediatric Consultant at the Sitaram Bhartia Institute of Science & Research, and one of the authors of the landmark Lancet study on obesity, tells FIT,

"Obesity is rising dramatically. In India, the obesity statistics are substantially underestimated. Obesity is associated dramatically with the risk of non-communicable diseases like diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, so it has health consequences and needs to be dealt with."

He added, "More than 50 percent of children have metabolic markers that are associated with obesity."


What Has India Done So Far To Tackle Its Obesity Crisis?

The question also arises about what India has been doing so far to control obesity in the population. According to the answers given in the Parliament between 2013-2023:

  • Union government programmes like the National Programme for Prevention and Control of Cancer, Diabetes, Cardiovascular Diseases & Stroke (launched in 2010) and the National Monitoring Framework and Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases have  identified obesity as an area of intervention. 

  • The Centre also runs programmes such as Fit India to promote a healthy lifestyle with more physical activities.

  • Schools affiliated with the CBSE have been often directed by the board to not allow junk food in the premises.  

  • The Food Safety & Standards Authority of India mandates that the nutritional information of all processed foods be displayed on the packaging. 


What More Needs To Be Done?

But is that enough? Should there be more done to address the obesity epidemic in the country?

According to Dr Sachdev, "The responsibility for reducing this depends on both the society and the individual."

He suggests that health education awareness be done on a mass level, warning labels be put on ultra-processed food, and physical activity be encouraged among people.

There are other policy measures that can be brought about too:

  • Train healthcare professionals to recognise early symptoms

  • Personalise support & create incentives for obese individuals to opt for healthier lifestyles

  • Decrease the taxes on organic food

  • Create a system where people are periodically screened for obesity 

(All of April, Quint FIT is decoding the alarming rise in obesity in India and the various health risks associated with it. Follow our full coverage here.)

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Topics:  Obesity Risk 

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