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Obesity rates among children in Asia-Pacific are rising at a rapid rate, and more action is needed to encourage healthier lifestyles and ease pressure on fledgling healthcare systems, researchers said.
The number of overweight children under five rose 38 percent between 2000 and 2016 in the region, and the problem is growing, said Sridhar Dharmapuri, a food safety and nutrition officer at the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Bangkok.
“The rate of growth in obesity in Asia-Pacific is higher than in many other countries,” Dharmapuri told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“While the United States leads the way on obesity rates, the number of overweight children in Asia-Pacific is rising rapidly, and many countries in this region are now among the most health-threatened in the world.”
Adult obesity rates are highest in the United States, Mexico, New Zealand and Hungary, and lowest in Japan and South Korea, according to a report on member states by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
But the rapid rise in obesity among young people in Asia-Pacific is worrying because overweight children are at higher risk of becoming obese as adults and then developing serious health problems like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and liver disease.
Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand are among the most overweight countries in Southeast Asia, while Samoa, Tonga and Nauru are the most overweight in the Pacific. Australia also has high rates of obesity.
Many of these nations are also struggling to tackle malnutrition among their citizens.
The cost to the Asia-Pacific region of citizens being overweight or obese is $166 billion a year, a recent report by the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) said.
Rising wealth levels over the last 20 years have played a major role in the rise in obesity levels, researchers say.
“The region has undergone economic growth, so food has become available at a relatively cheaper price,” said Matthias Helble, an economist at the ADBI in Tokyo.
“For the last 20 years the economic growth has been almost uninterrupted,” said Helble, who has researched obesity levels in the region for three years.
The “obesity time bomb” will be discussed by the 46 member governments attending the FAO conference for Asia and the Pacific, which starts in Fiji from Monday.
In addition to consuming more, as economies have grown, people in Asia-Pacific have moved away from farming into manufacturing, and then to service sector jobs – which are more sedentary, researchers said.
Cities in Asia-Pacific have also seen unprecedented growth over the last two decades; this year more than half the region’s population will for the first time be urban, the United Nations has estimated.
City-dwellers in Asia-Pacific can spend hours commuting – due to poor transport systems and infrastructure – and when they finally reach home they have little time to cook. Many opt to eat out.
This new lifestyle has caused a rise in the consumption of convenience and processed foods, which often contain excess fats and more salt and sugar, researchers said.
People in the region also struggle to maintain a balanced diet, said Dharmapuri, with meals often lacking vegetables.
“The diet is largely rice-based,” he said. “On anybody’s plate, rice takes up between 50-70 percent of the space.”
When people are overweight they often suffer from other health problems, economists said, and this is likely to put pressure on public healthcare systems that are only just being established in many Asia-Pacific nations.
Also Read: Obesity may affect a child’s liver
Absenteeism from work is also higher among obese people, said Helble, adding that overweight people often die earlier than those who lead healthy lives, so have a shorter productive life.
“The term ‘obesogenic environment’ has been used to describe an environment that promotes obesity among individuals and populations,” Elizabeth Ingram of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare — a government statistics agency — said by email.
“It includes physical, economic, political, and sociocultural factors.”
Fixing the problem will likely take years, and researchers said a joint effort by business and governments was needed.
Better labeling on foods to promote healthier options, education about healthier diets and lifestyles, and even healthier school meals would improve the situation, analysts said.
“Being obese can also be seen as a sign of prosperity, because you have enough food to show your wealth through the fact that you have a lot to eat,” said Helble.
Sugar taxes, which have been introduced or are being discussed in the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia, are also one way to change people’s mindset, he added.
Building more sports facilities at schools and ensuring urban planners include recreational areas for cities and make them more walkable and less polluted, is also crucial.
Governments must work with retailers, like in Singapore, to create a coordinated approach on packaging and promote a balanced diet, researchers said.
Working with retailers to ban unhealthy and sweet foods from checkout areas, and pushing street vendors to switch from fried foods to healthier, more traditional options, are also key.
And countries should adopt a “farm to fork” approach, which encourages farmers to diversify what they grow and be less reliant on growing just rice, said Dharmapuri.
“In some Pacific island countries, it’s actually easier to buy soft drinks and processed foods than buy fruits and vegetables,” said Dharmapuri. “It’s almost a delicacy to have a vegetable in a restaurant.”
The Centre will launch a pilot project on the use of indigenously manufactured drones for delivering medicines in the undulating landscape of Jammu and surrounding areas from Saturday with a focus on vaccines delivery initially. "This is going to be a pilot project for the area. The drone is developed and manufactured entirely by our scientists," Union Minister for Science & Technology, Dr Jitendra Singh told mediapersons. Singh said he himself will be launching the project at Jammu.
The drone is developed by the scientists at Bengaluru's National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL), a constituent of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), an autonomous Society that is headed by the Prime Minister. For now, the delivery would be limited to Covid vaccines and once successful, it would be expanded to be used for regular delivery of medicines in the remote, hilly areas.
The drone is developed by the scientists at Bengaluru's National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL). | Photo by Jason Blackeye on Unsplash
Jammu and surrounding areas are sensitive in terms of the strategic importance. Some months ago, there was an attack on an Army installation using drones. Will the 'drones for vaccines' be permitted in such a case? Allaying fears, a top official from the Ministry of S&T said, "The drones would be deployed by authorised agencies such as hospitals, not anybody can use it, nor would any random person be permitted to use it."
NAL has called the drone as 'Octacopter' and it can fly at an operational altitude of 500 m AGL and at maximum flying speed of 36 kmph. It can be used for a variety of BVLOS applications for last mile delivery like medicines, vaccines, food, postal packets, Human organs (such as heart for heart transplantation) etc. NAL Octacopter is integrated with a powerful on-board embedded computer and latest generation sensors for versatile applications like agricultural pesticide spraying, crop monitoring, mining survey, magnetic geo survey mapping etc., S&T officials had said. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Jammu, Vaccines, Medicines, Deliver, Drones, Centre
Bollywood actor Abhishek Bachchan shares how he feels when people compare him with his father Amitabh Bachchan on the singing reality show 'Sa Re Ga Ma Pa'. He also requests contestant Rajshree Bag to sing a track 'Bahon Mein Chale Aao' featuring his mother Jaya Bachchan.
Abhishek said after looking at the performance of Rajshree, who is often compared with Lata Mangeshkar on the show, that she reminds him of being compared with his father. "Rajshree, whenever I have got the chance to watch the show, I've seen people compare you to Lata didi. It actually reminded me about how people compare me with my father and ask me how I feel about it."
According to him Amitabh Bachchan is a great actor in the industry and this is what he says to everyone making these comparisons. "My answer to them is that there's no greater actor in this film industry than Amitabh Bachchan and if I'm being compared to him, I am sure I must have done something good."
"Similarly, your voice has a different kind of magic like Lata ji and that's why people are comparing your voice with her. I feel you should always take this as a compliment," he concluded. 'Sa Re Ga Ma Pa' airs on Saturday and Sunday on Zee TV. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: Abhishek Bachchan, Amitabh Bachchan, reality show, Sa Re Ga Ma Pa, Rajshree Bag
Winters in India have always beckoned for that hot, steaming bowl of tomato and pepper rasam or the mellow, millet based Raab. Certain dishes like sarson ka saag, undhiyu, nimona pulao are winter specialites in the country. Seasonal food has always been an Indian speciality -- we switch our choice in fruits, vegetables, sometimes even grains with the onset of different season. The preference of using specific ingredients during certain climates is visible in our sweets as well. It's common to find local and traditional delicacies made of jaggery, instead of sugar during the winters. Case in point -- the Nolen Gur Rasgulla, a speciality made in Odisha and West Bengal between November to February.
Celebrity chef, Sanjeev Kapoor, strongly advocates this need of eating seasonal produce. He says, "The beauty of our food is in our seasonal usage of fruits and vegetables. If you realise, Gajar ka halwa is made aplenty during winters as this is the season when beautiful red carrots hit the market or mango pickle is made during summer, thanks to its availability. Despite people and sometimes, even me, suggesting that we should eat fresh as well as seasonal fruits and vegetables, we do not know what chemicals are sprayed on them to keep them safe while they are growing. When this produce hits the market, there isn't a certifying agency like the FSSAI that will help people understand what vegetables and fruits are free of pesticides and germs and which ones don't. Hence, the onus lies on us to make them safe for consumption. ITC's Nimwash is a good solution."
When it comes to winters, the Chef recommends eating these fruit and vegetables:
* Purple Mogri -- Mogri or Radish pods are not a common sight throughout the country. But you can spot them during the winters in local markets in northern India where women pick them up to make raitas, curries and stir fries. Rich in magnesium, calcium and copper, the vegetable is known to aid people from digestive problems.
Mogri or Radish pods are not a common sight throughout the country, but you can spot them during the winters | Pixabay
* Sweet Potato -- A re-discovered favourite, Sweet potatoes have created a space for itself in the millennial kitchen. With its diverse addition in burgers, chips and even chat, the root vegetable is filled with nutrients such as fibres and vitamins.
Sweet potatoes have created a space for itself in the millennial kitchen. | Wikimedia Commons
* Avarekalu -- Called Hyacinth beans in English, Avarekalu is a winter speciality in the south that is added to sambhar, saagu, rotis, etc. Bangalore is famed for its Averakalu mela during the winter months, where you can find these beans in dosas, Pani puri and even Jalebis! Thronged by crowds from all over the city, the food fest is a gourmand's delight.
Called Hyacinth beans in English, Avarekalu is a winter speciality in the south that is added to sambhar, saagu, rotis, etc. | Wikimedia Commons
* Amla -- The Indian gooseberry is a common winter fruit found through the country. High in Vitamin C, it is known to be immunity building and extremely beneficial for the skin and hair. There are multiple ways to eat Amla -- it is pickled, made into a fruit preserve called as Murraba or even eaten by sprinkling salt over it.
The Indian gooseberry is a common winter fruit found through the country. | Pixabay
(Article originally published on IANSlife) (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: winter, Sanjeev Kapoor, chef, Indian gooseberry, Sweet Potato, Radish pods