- Over 15 million contract Non-Communicable Diseases every year: WHO
- Nearly 167 million people globally to be obese by 2025: WHO
- Intake of healthy food vital to control obesity and other NCDs: Experts
New Delhi: Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), otherwise known as chronic diseases, have affected millions of people worldwide and are the primary cause of more than 41 million (nearly 71 per cent) global deaths, as per the World Health Organisation (WHO) report. The report further states that more than 15 million people fall victim to NCDs every year, between the ages of 30 to 69 years. Of the total fatalities, around 85 per cent are “premature” deaths. The WHO has estimated the annual deaths from NCDs to rise to 55 million by 2030, globally, from approximately 41 million, if there are no timely interventions in place.
WHO’s Reality Check
The challenges of non-communicable diseases are not limited to human suffering; they also harm the economic development and socioeconomic (SES) status of the country.
The WHO states that NCDs hinder progress towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which aims to reduce the number of premature deaths from these diseases by one-third.
The organisation stated that poverty is another factor that NCD impedes. According to the report, NCDs stymie poverty-reduction efforts in low-income countries by increasing household health-care costs. The vulnerable section of society dies sooner due to these diseases than people of higher social positions, as they are more exposed to unhealthy dietary practices and have limited access to health services.
The annual cost of NCD-related household resources, treatments, etc., combined with income loss, has forced people into poverty and hampered development. In terms of attributable deaths, obesity is one of the leading metabolic risk factors globally, WHO states.
In the Indian context, some of the major non-communicable diseases that have roped in people include obesity, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, etc.
Obesity’s Global Prevalence
The WHO defines obesity as an abnormal or excessive fat accumulation that poses a risk to health. According to the UN agency’s report, over one billion people globally are obese, of whom 650 million are adults, 340 million are adolescents, and 39 million are children. These numbers are on the rise, and the WHO estimates approximately 167 million people, including adults and children, will become victims of obesity by 2025.
Worldwide, there has been a threefold rise in obesity since 1975, and more than one billion people are obese. The WHO said that nearly 5 million people become victims of obesity each year, and obese people are three times more likely to be hospitalised with COVID-19.
This is because obesity is linked to impair one’s immune function, a study published in the Centres For Disease And Control Prevention states. Another study of COVID-19 cases published in John Hopkins in 2020, suggested that the risks of hospitalisation, intensive care unit admission, invasive mechanical ventilation, and death were higher with increasing Body Mass Index (BMI). The case accumulated the data from more than 200 U.S. hospitals.
Obesity In India: What Does The Data Say?
According to the National Family Health Survey-5 (NFHS-5), released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, one in every four Indians is now obese. Obesity among women has increased from 21 per cent in 2015-16 to 24 per cent in 2019-20. Among men, it has risen to 23 per cent in 2019-20 from 19 per cent in 2015-16.
One of the key findings of NFHS-5 (2019-2020) was an increase in childhood obesity. Out of 22 states and union territories, 20 of them, including Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Ladakh, saw a rise in obesity among children.
In Gujarat, the percentage of overweight children under 5 years of age increased from 1.9 per cent to 3.9 per cent, whereas, in Maharashtra, it increased from 1.9 per cent in 2015-16 to 4.1 per cent in 2019-20. Ladakh saw a massive rise, from 4 per cent obese children under the age of five (2015-16) to 13.4 per cent (2019-20).
Basanta Kumar Kar, a recipient of the Global Nutrition Leadership Award, spoke to NDTV about the obesity and nutrition trends of NFHS 5 report. He said that the growing trend of obesity among Indians IS attributed to unsafe diets, over consumption of salt, sugar and fat including trans-fat.
Whatever policies we have in terms of nutrition that will need to work at the ground and things have to happen at the bottom line. India needs to achieve Nutritional Self Reliance (Atmanirbhar Poshan). The country runs the risk of an impending nutrition famine and epidemic of obesity, diabetes and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) related to poor nutrition. The risk of obesity can be passed from one generation to the next, as a result of behavioural and/or biological factors. It is necessary to be cognisant of this double burden of malnutrition and approach the problem holistically for a Sustainable Nutrition Revolution that India needs today.
Focus On Nutrition To Overcome Obesity
The intake of healthy food is vital for controlling any non-communicable disease, especially obesity. Poor nutrition clubbed with minimal physical activity is a ticking bomb for obesity.
A Nutritionist’s Mantra To Fight Obesity
Speaking to NDTV, Dietitian and Nutritionist Dr. Ishi Khosla called obesity the chief culprit of the unhealthy lifestyle. Dr. Khosla holds more than 30 years of experience handling chronic diseases, especially obesity. She says that there is no simplified diet to combat obesity.
There are no easy fixes. We need not to just look at calories and fat, but an overall picture. The food, like what you eat, at what proportion, the timings and much more. We need to cut down on sugars, trans fats used in commercial bakeries, fried foods, etc. we need to think and rethink what we are feeding our body.
She said that counting calories was one of the biggest myths to exist when it comes to losing a certain amount of weight.
It’s not just calories and carbohydrates, the communication among people about staying fit has also caused problems. There is a protein obsession and it is one big mess that needs to be simplified.
Dr. Khosla calls for a different approach, that starts from ‘looking at food as we eat it.’
People need to make sure that half their plates are full of fruits and vegetables, while the other half comprises good quality plant and animal proteins, grains and carbohydrates.
She also emphasised on ‘meal timing’. She said that eating at the right time is another key factor to overcoming obesity and helping promote regular digestion. The delay in the timing of the food consumption would lead to an increase in one’s likelihood of eating more than required and have a negative impact on the digestion process, she added.
What Does An Ideal Diet Include?
Clinical nutritionist, Dr. Rupali Datta calls obesity a cause-and-effect thing, which could happen as a result of having a sedentary lifestyle, hormonal imbalances, etc. Dr. Datta says that even a small amount of weight loss in the body has great benefits.
Research has shown that even a 5 per cent reduction in body weight will go a long way towards reducing the risk of non-communicable diseases. We no longer only look at the body mass index (BMI), but also at the body composition. We know that diets are becoming not only carbohydrate rich but also refined carbohydrate rich.
Speaking to NDTV, Dr. Datta said that a general diet plan must be inclusive of all nutrients. It must be a combination of whole grains, plant-based proteins (dals, channas, chickpeas) and animal-based proteins.
The whole aim is to attack the fat in the body.
One can replace mutton or high cholesterol and high saturated red meat with fish two to three times a week, as it contains the most Omega-3 fatty acids that are beneficial to heart health, Dr. Datta added. She emphasised on the importance of having greens in one’s diet.
Half your plate has to be filled with salads (vegetables and fruits), as it gives you fibre, vitamins, and minerals. Additionally, they also control your calorie intake. such a rich diet can lower blood pressure, prevent heart disease, strokes, etc.
Speaking of the infamous carbohydrates, Dr. Datta said that they were needed as much as other nutrients in the diet.
We don’t have to do away with carbs, but include them wisely. A meal must have an adequate amount of carbohydrates and phytonutrients like millets. If we include millets in our diet, it will help us maintain gut bacteria, push out cholesterol, and maintain blood pressure.
Regarding dairy, Dr. Datta listed skim milk as the best option.
Calcium is as important as any other nutrient for our heart muscles. A decent quantity can protect against diabetes.
Dr. Datta said that all the factors also help in controlling the sugar cravings that one has post meal.
The sugar search becomes better and the insulin resistance also improves.
The UN agency recommends some nutritional tips to reduce the risk of developing non-communicable diseases and maintain a healthy lifestyle:
- Limit sugar intake to 1 teaspoon a day
- Replace salt with dried herbs and spices
- Cut back on salty sauces including soy and fish
- Cut back on adding sugar or salt to complementary food fed to children under the age of 2 years
- Keep a watch on individual intake of saturated fats and trans-fats would be of help. It can be done by selecting low-fat or reduced-fat milk and dairy products
- Choose white meat such as poultry and fish and limit the consumption of processed meats like bacon
- Avoid consumption of processed, baked and fried foods
— World Health Organization (WHO) Western Pacific (@WHOWPRO) August 12, 2022
Additionally, WHO, like most experts, calls for including protein rich foods in the diet every day. The organisation advises on consuming a variety of food and including wholegrains, fruits and vegetables.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.