By Anjali Nambissan:
India is fast-becoming a strange country where we have the problem of both malnourished, as well as, obese children. A 2012 study by The Endocrine Society claims that childhood obesity in India has jumped from 9.8% of total obesity figures to 11.7% in the period between 2006 and 2009. Last month, the Washington Post reported that 80 per cent of the 65 million cases of diabetes in India are caused by obesity. In 2014, the number of weight-loss surgeries went up to 18,000 from 800, five years ago – The Post quoted the chief bariatric surgeon at New Delhi’s Max Healthcare Hospital as saying:
“Why are we becoming obese and unhealthy?”
It has a little to do with our growing middle class and a lot to do with what this growing middle class is growing up on.
Let me explain…
In 2010, the Centre for Science and Environment put under the scanner 23 junk food samples from seven food categories like potato chips, Indian snacks such as aloo bhujia, sweetened carbonated drinks, burgers, pizza, French fries and instant noodles. What they found might stick in your throat (pun intended):
1. The salt content in instant noodles (Masala Maggi has 4.2 gms of salt/100 gms of sample) and salted potato chips (Uncle Chips Spicy Treat has 3.5 gms/100 gms) overtakes our WHO recommended daily dosage of 5 grams per day.
2. Indian snacks (Haldiram’s Aloo Bhujia has 37.8 gms of total fat/100 gms), pizzas (Slice of Italy’s classic Margherita pizza has 55.6 gms of carbs/100 gms) and burgers (KFC’s Chicken Zinger burger has 16.9 gms of total fats/100 gms) are high in fat and carbs. So they can give you heart disease as well as, type 2 diabetes. A healthy adult should on average eat about 250-350 grams of carbs and 35-80 grams of fat, each day. Do the math.
3. Carbonated drinks and desserts from fast food chains such as McDonald’s and KFC have dangerously high levels of sugar. Both Pepsi and Coca cola have about 14-15 gms of sugar per 100 gms. If I’m not wrong, that means a 500 ml bottle of Coke/Pepsi has about 70 gms of sugar!
There are no regulations requiring take-away food and fast food available at major outlets to label their products and provide nutritional information. This is an insult to our trust, we need to educate ourselves and our loved ones.
Experts are pointing at a growing relationship between an expanding middle class and their expanding waist line. A 2013 study, titled The Rise of the Quick Bite, by management consultants, Technopak, claim that thanks to the ‘home-based consumer’ turning into an ‘indulgent Indian’, the food services market is set to grow to a whopping INR 408,040 crore (USD 78 billion) by 2018. Fast food chains alone are projected to grow by 75 per cent. Anyone noticed the new Burger King around the corner or the Taco Bell in the mall? Thanks to these international fast food giants, which are widely discredited in their home countries for making people sick, the fast food chain market grew to an approximate value of INR 5,500 crore in 2013.
What’s more? A 2008 Integrated Disease Surveillance report says that our rural population is catching up fast. Data from the seven states chosen for the survey showed that more people, across urban and rural areas, are consuming fast food.
Why are we ignoring our mother’s age-old advice of eating good ol’ ghar ka khana and moving towards a fast food future of death and diseases?