Giants and corporates who are ruling the food circuit currently, may be raising instances of both under-nutrition and obesity, claims a study. The report showed, how biscuits and snack packets, costing between one and five rupees, have taken the place of a many large meals for a significant chunk of the 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 under-nutrition, 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'.
Undernutrition which continues to be India's leading cause of concern is closely associated with communicable diseases like TB, malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea, over-nutrition leads to non-communicable diseases like diabetes, hypertension, cardiac disease, strokes and even certain cancers.
The study also pointed to the links between under-nutrition in childhood with increased risk of obesity and non-communicable diseases in later life.
The findings revealed that that there is growing evidence claiming, those who suffer from anaemia in early life may struggle with obesity in later life.
Necessary steps must be taken to influence the right to food and nutrition and public health policy landscape, noted the researchers.
"Around 39 per cent of Indian children are stunted and more than a third of women and men are now over-weight or obese," said Dr Rasmi Avula of International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
"We have to look at all these issues from an inequity lens. It's really important to fill the inequity gap. We cannot let the inequity grow," she said.
The food and beverage companies need stricter guidelines, said the researchers. The unregulated and aggressive marketing of processed and ultra processed foods have begun to aggravate the complex problem even further, noted the researchers.
"The food chain from farm to fork is controlled by increasingly few large corporates at every node pesticides, chemicals, seeds, processing, manufacture, retail and supply. Its important that we understand this and take action, otherwise we have a disaster in waiting," said Prof David Sanders, Global Chairperson of People's Health Movement (PHM).
Most of these packaged foods are a direct invitation to poor health and obesity, believe the researchers. They are high in sugar, salt and fat, all addictive in nature, but low in nutrition. Its long shelf life, cheap and convenience is changing the food system, said Dr Arun Gupta, Regional Coordinator, International Baby Food Action Network (Asia).
(With inputs IANS)