A common trend followed among all the schools worldwide is that Kindergarten school kids come out a little earlier from the school than the rest. Most of the kids in this category are chubby and cute, which is because of the puppy fat. Then, children studying in higher classes come out. Some of them are chubby too, but one can easily tell that they are chubby because they are overweight. Some of them even have a paunch and waddle instead of walking.
This situation is becoming quite common among school going kids. The physiological reasons for obesity among kids studying in affluent schools and their counterparts studying in schools of poorer neighbourhoods seem to be different. But urbanisation seems to be a common factor for obesity in both categories of kids.
According to studies conducted by the WHO, “urbanisation is highly associated with several dietary and behavioural risk factors not only for chronic diseases, but also for obesity.” Although Andhra Pradesh trails behind other States in urbanisation, it is ranked fifth in obesity, after the more urbanised Punjab, Kerala, Goa and Tamil Nadu, in the National Family Health Survey (NFHS). In fact, most urbanized states such as Maharashtra and Gujarat are ranked ninth and tenth in obesity race.
The cause of obesity among the rich class is easy access to unhealthy and processed foods. However, in the poorer section, the cause seems to be excessive relying on external food sources instead of production of their own food. In fact, WHO in it’s study found that obesity co-existed with under-nourishment. Under-nourishment in earlier stages resulted in obesity in a later stage of the child.
Such condition is quite common in several transitional countries. The same is also true for populations moving from rural scarcity to urban glut. Easy accessibility of non-traditional and processed foods has made the country to become integrated into the global food market.
Affluent schools of India have large unused playgrounds and sports equipment as physical activity is a priority either for the school, kids or parents. Children who belong to not so affluent schools do not have any such facilities for physical activity and are kept cramped in a small classroom throughout the day.
Stress, which is again more associated with the urban areas, is yet another reason for obesity. Ramesh Hospitals dietician Srikala says stress is an important factor that causes people to put on weight rapidly. People under stress eat more, leading to obesity and overweight in turn increases stress.
In less than half a decade, she has seen a sudden increase in the cholesterol levels of the younger generation. “Cholesterol levels are shooting up from the age of 25 itself. Stress and consumption of fast foods seem to be the reason for the increased levels of cholesterol,” she says.
While cholesterol is needed, high levels of it are not recommended because it can cause the formation of plaque on the walls of blood vessels and blood clots which can cause crippling heart attacks and brain strokes when they block the fine blood vessels that provide blood circulation to these vital organs.
The obesity epidemic has attacked the nation and affecting the next coming generation. Strict decisions and actions need to be taken in order to curb this epidemic!