From having undernourished children a few years ago, the country now faces the threat of an epidemic of childhood obesity. In an effort to tackle this problem at an early stage, Heinz Nutrition Foundation India organised a symposium on child obesity for parents recently.
The genesis of childhood obesity, managing the condition and its long-term outcome were the topics of discussion.
Speaking to City Express,, paediatrician Dr YK Amdekar said that at one time, 20 to 30 per cent of children were malnourished in the country.
“A good 30 to 40 per cent were undernourished around 10 years ago. We haven’t solved that problem yet, but now are onto another kind of malnutrition, which is over-nutrition,” he said.
Adding that the bodies of our ancestors were conditioned to live off less of food, Dr Amdekar said, “We are genetically made to have an adaptation to less of food. Weight is not an indicator of health in children as our society tends to think.” This genetic tendency can affect the body more than we think possible.
Citing the example of former cricketer Vinod Kambli, he said, “He was on par or even a shade better than Sachin Tendulkar. As he was from a less-privileged background, the sudden glut of heavy food and drinks did not agree with his body, and it was one of the reasons why his form dropped. In such situations, the individuals have to take care that the intake of food is gradual rather than sudden.”
Nutritionist Dr Dharini Krishnan said that the practise of eating right has to begin from an early age. She advised parents that children from the age of two have to be given what the family eats.
“Just because the child likes potato over cabbage does not mean that it has to be made separately for the child. They should be encouraged and taught to eat all types of food. Same goes for parents who blend the food to make it easier for the child to eat. Only if they eat properly and by themselves, will they know not to overeat,” she said.
Dr A Laxmaiah, Deputy Director of National Institute of Nutrition, spoke about the magnitude of childhood obesity and preventive strategies. Dr Bhaskar Raju, paediatric gastroenterologist spoke about picky eating children and parental attitude towards them.
Dr Amdekar and Dr Dharini also spoke on obesity being a multi-organ disease and nutritional management of obesity.