Obesity In Indians - Blog Aster Medcity

Obesity In Indians

Dr. Prakash K, Senior Consultant - Surgical Gastroenterology


Obesity or excess body weight is becoming a huge problem in people of all ages across the world. A condition that leads to multiple other diseases ranging from diabetes to hypertension, obesity has become like an uncontrollable epidemic with 300% increase in the number of patients over the past 4 decades. According to estimates, the United States tops the list of countries with obese people at 13%, while China and India together accounts for more than 15% of the total population (46 million and 30 million people respectively as per figures in year 2013).

The main reason for obesity is sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy eating habits and lack of exercise. Modernisation and technology has made lives easier and physical activity minimal. This puts a substantial part of the population at risk - a huge danger that we as a society should realise, understand and do something about. In countries like India, morbid obesity has not yet become a public health priority, which is extremely concerning. With unhealthy, processed food becoming easily accessible, the average caloric intake per individual among the middle class India has increased substantially. And naturally, obesity becomes the after effect when the amount of calories consumed is more than what’s burnt. Thus, Obesity in India has reached epidemic proportions, with morbid obesity affecting 5% of the country’s population.

According to a study published in the Lancet, India has seen a significant rise in obesity over the past years. India’s ranking in obese men has gone from 19th in the world in 1975 to the 5th in 2014. India also ranks 3rd in the world in the population of obese women. However, what’s most shocking is the prevalence of childhood obesity – the number of overweight children in India have risen steeply from 9.7% in 2001 to 19.3% in 2010, making India the country with the second largest population of obese children. Yes, our future generation is reeling under a huge health risk, which can lead to multiple complications like heart diseases, diabetes, orthopaedic disorders, hypertension, infertility and even early death.

Effects of obesity on health

Obesity increases the risk of developing diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesteremia, which in turn means 49% higher risk of cardiovascular deaths and stroke. The risk of death from respiratory disease rose up to 38% and that from cancer - higher by 19%. A research at the Harvard University revealed that every 5 units higher BMI above 25 kg/m2 is associated with approx. 31% higher risk of premature death.

How do we control Obesity?

As a disease, obesity is complex condition with difficult solutions. The epidemic of obesity needs to be tackled at several levels to be managed efficiently: the individual level, the community level, and the government level. Individual level includes adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes balanced, nutritious diet and regular exercise. And yes, personalised guidelines must be made for treating obesity with lifestyle measures while the preventive programs is in progress; along with medical help including medications for co morbidity and bariatric surgery (in severe cases of obesity).

How does Bariatric Surgery help?

Bariatric surgery promotes weight loss by restricting food intake and in some procedures, altering the digestive and absorptive process. No, Bariatric surgery is not a cosmetic surgery! Weight loss surgery, often done by laparoscopy changes the digestive system so that the body takes in fewer calories. Bariatric surgery has been shown to help improve or resolve many obesity-related conditions such as resolution of type2 diabetes in up to 85% cases, reduction in high blood pressure, heart disease and more. Hence, if a person gets rid of the excess weight and achieves a healthy BMI, his or her overall health will improve by leaps and bounds.