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Obesity Rises In A Country Where Millions Remain Malnourished

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 9/03/2016 Alexandra Ma
ATHENA IMAGE © MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images ATHENA IMAGE

The number of obese teenagers in India has almost doubled in the past five years, the country's health minister, Jagat Prakash Nadda, revealed Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.

Currently, 29 percent of Indians ages 13 to 18 are obese, compared to just 16 percent in 2010.

Nadda noted that the increased obesity rate is largely due to lifestyle changes that come with rising incomes. Indians are earning more and juggling more hectic work schedules, leading them to consume fast food because there's less time to prepare meals at home.

Studies that have appeared in journals such as the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism and Ecology of Food and Nutrition have also blamed obesity rates on sedentary lifestyles that lead Indian citizens to spend more time indoors or sitting in cars, and not engaging in physical exercise outdoors.

Nadda also said there is an increasing number of Indians with diabetes, which is often associated with obesity. Over 69 million people out of the approximately 1.3 billion people in India -- or 5 percent of the population -- were registered with diabetes in 2015, compared to 66.8 million in 2014 and 65 million in 2013, Nadda said, citing statistics that have not yet been fully released to the public.

By comparison, over 29 million of the 319 million people in the United States have diabetes -- that's nine percent of the population. At least 32 million people in the European Union, or 6 percent of its population of 508 million, are also diabetic.

Yet India still has one of the highest hunger levels in the world. An estimated 194.6 million people in India are malnourished, the United Nations' 2015 State of Food Insecurity in the World report noted. Almost 30 percent of Indian children under age 5 are underweight, and 38 percent are stunted, according to a survey the U.N. and the Indian government conducted with 90,000 children between 2013 and 2014.

In fact, India's hunger levels ranked higher than in North Korea, Malawi and Iraq in the 2015 Global Hunger Index, which measured undernourishment and child wasting, stunting and mortality levels in 116 countries.

Poverty is a major cause of malnutrition in India. One-third of the country's population survives on less than $1.25 a day, per 2010 U.N. statistics, and in 2013, India's richest 10 percent held 30 percent of the country's income, while the poorest 10 percent held 3.5 percent, according to the World Bank.

Child malnutrition, in particular, can also be linked to poor sanitation. Many of the world's poor live in areas where a lack of sanitation facilities leads people to defecate in the open, causing bacteria to spread and affecting nutrition levels. The U.N.'s 2014 Millennium Development Goals Report noted that the majority of people who relieve themselves in the open live in populous countries like India.

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