Obesity, a prevalent health concern in today's society, goes beyond its immediate impact on body weight as the repercussions of this condition extend to various lifestyle diseases, significantly affecting individuals' health and overall quality of life.
According to experts, obesity is a harbinger of many diseases, including diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, infertility, migraine, slip disc, knee osteoarthritis, and also significantly increases cancer risk.
Putting it all together, it significantly decreases the life span in Class II and Class III obese individuals.
According to the data from the 2016-2021 National Family Health Survey (NFHS), about 20 per cent of the Indian population is obese, including 5 per cent morbidly obese (severely obese) population.
"Major drivers of obesity in India are a sedentary lifestyle, westernisation of diet (including junk and fast food), increased screen time and lack of exercise. Little physical activity is required to earn a living now, and access to food has increased manifold," Dr Vivek Bindal Director & Head - Institute of Minimal Access, Bariatric & Robotic Surgery, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Vaishali, told IANS.
"Packed food like bags of chips and cookies are available in remote villages and to poor socio-economic strata as well at very low cost, thus increasing its consumption across all sections of society. Access to smartphones and data has increased screen time significantly, reducing physical activity," he added.
Among urban areas like Delhi and Chandigarh, obesity prevalence is around 30 per cent, but the most alarming statistic is that over one-third of school-going children are overweight or obese, as per NFHS data.
The World Obesity Federation in a 2023 report predicted that in the next 12 years, more than 51 per cent of the world's population will be overweight or obese.
According to a national study, about 14.4 million obese children are in India, and it has the second-highest number of obese children in the world, next to China.
In addition, obese children are also more likely to suffer from low self-esteem, and weight bias both in school and family settings.
"When we come to look into the reasons leading to being overweight then on top of the list is inadequate activity means a sedentary lifestyle in comparison with the increase in high carbohydrate-rich food. Urbanisation that includes handheld tech devices, food deliveries and motor car-dependent movements have been at the centre of weight gain in the Indian population," Dr Rakesh Durkhure, Director & Senior Consultant, GI & Laparoscopic Surgery, Marengo Asia Hospitals, Gurugram, told IANS.
Moreover, Dr Durkhure mentioned that obesity is an illness which affects the physical and mental health of an individual, plus depression and anti-social behaviour is commonly seen with the rising weight of a person.
Nowadays, infertility both in men and women is seen commonly and more with obese persons. Polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD) is seen in obese teenage girls, thus leading to infertility in their later life.
According to the latest survey, about 6.4 per cent of women and 4.0 per cent of men aged 15-49 are actually obese, and around 17.6 per cent of women and 18.9 per cent of men in the same age group are overweight, but they are labelled as obese.
To combat obesity, experts believe that prevention is the best strategy and that it should be implemented at a young age.
Obesity can be tackled by reducing screen time, junk/fast food consumption, and encouraging exercise, sports, and yoga.
Proteins such as whole legumes, egg whites, and lean fish and chicken should be included in meals, plus metabolic-boosting foods such as ginger, lime, garlic, and salad, as well as fruits and dry fruits, should be included in a family's food plate.