India still has the dubious distinction of having the largest underweight child population in the world and this has been so since the last four decades! (At least in something we are number one!!). In 1975 24.4% of girls and 39.3% boys were underweight and this figure remained relatively constant till 2016 (22.7%and 30.7%)
BUT we are now rapidly heading towards being number one in overweight children too – in fact we are number two in the world! (Only China has more obese children). Obesity is fast becoming an epidemic and we have 14.4 million obese children giving a prevalence rate of around 15%. In the higher income group a survey of private schools found an astounding 35-40% incidence of obesity!!
How do we compare with world-wide statistics?
This would all be mere statistics if there were no serious health concerns for those who are obese. It is estimated that around 66% of obese children will remain obese into adulthood. They would be at a higher risk for various ‘lifestyle’ illnesses like hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, coronary and cerebral arterial disease, osteoarthritis, dyslipidemia, gall bladder disease, respiratory problems, emotional disturbances and even some cancers.
WHO has red-flagged obesity as being one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century. By 2020 we will have more overweight than underweight children globally. This will especially be seen in middle-income countries.
In the next part we will see how obesity in children affects their health in adulthood.