Studies indicate that the incidence of juvenile diabetes is on the rise in Indian metros; around 20 per cent of school-going children in India are overweight and Indians are among the World’s most depressed. According to experts, the Rs.8000-crore junk food industry in India is largely responsible for the increasing incidence of non-communicable diseases and will play a significant role in killing two-thirds of Indians by 2030.
Seductively packaged, slickly marketed and promoted aggressively during children’s shows and on cartoon networks in a bid to ‘catch ’em young’, junk food is directly linked to depression, lower IQ among children, obesity, the early onset of diabetes and heart diseases, and a host of other pathological conditions. Among others, the habit of consuming junk food regularly is also considered to be a reason of growing infertility among Indian youth in the recent years.
And the realization of how bad junk food can be was apparent from the numbers that thronged the Delhi Quarterathon, a run for ‘junking junk food’ organized by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). Film actor Rahul Bose, politician Sandeep Dikshit, and a host of students, their teachers and parents participated in the event.
Contemporary dance guru Shiamak Davar, who supported the run and the cause behind it, said: “The initiative taken by CSE is very close to my work with dance education. The idea is to inculcate healthy and positive behaviour amongst school students. The Quarterathon is such an exciting way to create awareness on the endeavour and I extend my support to the organization that ensures passing on the right message to the youth.”
Junk food and the CSE study
Most junk food falls into the categories of either ‘snack food’ or ‘fast food’. Burgers, French fries, pizzas, colas and energy drinks are some of the more popular Western junk food. Samosas, kachoris, bread pakodas, packaged bhujia, instant noodles, momos, tikkis and bhaturas top the list of Indian junk food.
In March 2012, CSE had tested 16 major brands of junk foods, and found most of them loaded with high levels of trans fats, salts and sugar. While excess salts and sugar are a cause for concern, the real terror is in the trans fats. The WHO says that in a balanced diet, a maximum of 1 per cent of total energy should come from trans fats. Therefore, an adult male can have 2.6 gram of trans fats per day, while an adult female can have 2.1 gram and a child (10-12 years) can have 2.3 gram.