Monday, April 04, 2016

From bad to worse

Colin Todhunter has provided some data on the deteriorating level of health in India. 

India leads the world in terms of underweight people. Almost half the nation’s under-5s are underweight, the prevalence of underweight children in India is among the highest in the world. Some 102 million men and 101 million women are underweight, which makes the country home to over 40 percent of the global underweight population. For obesity, in 2014, it was in fifth position globally with 9.8 million obese men or 3.7 percent of the global obese men's population. Among women, India is globally ranked third, with 20 million obese women or 5.3 percent of global population.

Western style fast-food outlets have already been soaring in number throughout the country. Pizza Hut now operates in 46 Indian cities with 181 restaurants and 132 home delivery locations, a 67 percent increase in the last five years). KFC is now in 73 cities with 296 restaurants, a 770 percent increase. McDonalds is in 61 Indian cities with 242 restaurants as compared to 126 restaurants five years back, a 92 percent increase). According to a study published in the Indian Journal of Applied Research, the Indian fast food market is growing at the rate of 30-35 percent per annum. Heart disease, liver damage, stroke, obesity and diabetes are just some of the diseases linked to diets revolving around fast-food. By 2030, the number of diabetes patients in India is likely to rise to 101 million (World Health Organisation estimate). The number doubled to 63 million in 2013 from 32 million in 2000. Almost 8.2 percent of the adult male population in India has diabetes. The figure is 6.8 percent for women. Frequent consumption of fast food has been associated with increased body mass index as well as higher intakes of fat, sodium, added sugars and sugar-sweetened beverages and lower intakes of fruits, vegetables, fibre and milk in children, adolescents and adults. Fast food also tends to have higher energy densities and poorer nutritional quality than foods prepared at home and in comparison with dietary recommendations

India is one of the world’s largest users of pesticides and a profitable market for the corporations that manufacture them. Ladyfinger, cabbage, tomato and cauliflower in particular may contain dangerously high levels because farmers tend to harvest them almost immediately after spraying. Fruit and vegetables are sprayed and tampered with to make them more colourful, and harmful fungicides are sprayed on fruit to ripen them in order to rush them off to market. Consider that if you live in India, the next time you serve up a good old ‘wholesome’ meal of rice and various vegetables, you could take in half a milligram of pesticide also. That would be much more than what an average North American person would consume. The School of Natural Sciences and Engineering (SNSE) at the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore in 2008, reported that many crops for export had been rejected internationally due to high pesticide residues. Moreover, India is one of the largest users of World Health Organization (WHO) class 1A pesticides, including phorate, phosphorus, phosphamidon and fenthion that are extremely hazardous. Kasargod in Kerala is notorious for the indiscriminate spraying of endosulfan. The government-owned Plantation Corporation of Kerala aerially sprayed the harmful pesticide on cashews for a period of over 20 years. Consequently, it got into rivers, streams and drinking water.

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