Giant corporates selling processed foods are not only raising undernutrition but also obesity in a country that is seen as the hub of stunted and undernourished children, say experts. They cited how biscuits, savoury snack packets and the likes, costing between one and five rupees, have replaced many meals for a large chunk of population across rural and urban India.
“The region is seeing a rapid transition to a new situation where it faces a ‘double burden of malnutrition’ whereby gains related to reduction in undernutrition, are being undermined by an increase in overweight and obesity,” said Dr Vandana Prasad, National Convenor, Public Health Resource Network (PHRN), at the start of a three-day global meet.
“There are common roots to both these issues and they lie in the maldevelopment that we have engaged in this country,” she said at the conference on Critical Public Health Consequences of the Double Burden of Malnutrition and the Changing Food Environment in South and South East Asia.
While undernutrition is closely associated with communicable diseases like TB, malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea, overnutrition leads to non-communicable diseases like diabetes, hypertension, cardiac disease, strokes and certain cancers. Further, there is a growing evidence linking undernutrition in childhood with increased risk of obesity and non-communicable diseases in later life. New research links anaemia in early life with obesity in later life.