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No country for fit people - every other urban Indian is obese

Thursday, 19 September 2013 - 10:26pm IST Updated: Thursday, 19 September 2013 - 10:10pm IST | Agency: health.india.com

The biggest health issue of the developed world – obesity is catching up with our urban population in India
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A survey conducted by Fitho – an online weight loss diet plan service company, found that almost three out of four respondents were overweight. 46% (almost half) were obese with a BMI higher than 25 and that both men and women were equally overweight. It also found that women tended to become overweight two years before men. The average BMI of the respondents was 25.5.

Not just about looking pretty
It’s important to remember that obesity isn’t just about aesthetics; it is a direct indicator of various health-related ailments like diabetes, heart disease and other lifestyle disorders. In fact, India has already been bestowed the title of the ‘diabetes capital of the world’ and the problem is compounded by the fact that Indians are far more prone to cardiovascular illnesses due to the environment we live in and genetic mutation.

Men vs Women

Other findings included the fact that the average respondent was likely to be healthy when he/she was 26 and was likelier to obese by the time they turned 38. The study also found that the average respondent was approximately 11 kg overweight. Almost 1/5th of the men were in the obese 2 category (that is BMI over 30 – extremely obese), putting them at a very high risk of health disorders. Comparatively, only 1/7th of the women were in the obese 2 category. Almost 12% of the men weighed over 90 kg, with less than 6% women in that weight range. Other findings showed that non-vegetarians where likelier to be overweight and people who couldn’t cook were also fatter. Shockingly 98% people didn’t want to go to the gym!

The dangers of bulge

Prachi Gupta, CEO of Fitho said, ‘Being overweight puts you at higher risk for developing a number of health problems including hypertension, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood cholesterol, stroke and some kinds of cancer. Obesity puts you at a much higher risk of these lifestyle diseases.’ The survey also found that people with a higher BMI were far likelier to suffer from high blood pressure and heart disease. The people who were overweight also reported higher incidents of knee or back pain.

Do they plan to lose weight?
The study also found that 70% people were into some kind of physical activity to lose weight were men. 80% gym goers were also likely to be men and walking was the most common weight loss activity. Interestingly, the average age of people who people who’re currently dieting and exercising have an average age of 39 and a BMI of 28. This suggests that people only start making more healthy choices when they start seeing the consequences of living an unhealthy one.

No hasty generalisations
Obesity is one of the biggest public health challenges and is considered by some to be a global pandemics. However, it’s impossible to judge the an entire nation’s health based on such a small sample size. There’s also some controversy about using BMI as the sole indicator of ill-health. Many nutritionists and dieticians have spoken out against using BMI because a person’s weight could be due to a variety of reasons including bone weight and muscle weight. Nowadays, the body fat percentage is considered a more accurate tool to analyse good health.

Also, surveys conducted by companies have to be taken with a pinch of salt. For example, a survey conducted by a company that was launching a trimmer found that women preferred men with stylised facial hair and trimmed body hair, while an earlier survey by a razor company found that women preferred clean shaven men!

Note: The survey was conducted by Fitho covering newspaper readers in India. There were 4,100 participants with 46% men and 54% women. The BMI demarcation of overweight (BMI>23), obese (BMI>25) and extremely obese (BMI>30) is according to the Indian Health Ministry in 2012.

Infogram source: Fitho

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