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Indian obesity

Indian mums: ‘Ghee is good, refined is righteous and butter is better’

5 commentsBy RJ Whitehead , 01-Feb-2013

An major new survey has uncovered a worrying lack of awareness of diet and eating habits by both children and their parents. 

And in a development that will startle Western observers, it found that the vast majority of mothers believe that saturated fats are good for their child’s health.

The results come from a three-year study of 1,800 children aged between nine and 18. The research took place by the Diabetes Foundation of India (DFI) and its findings were recently accepted by international peer-review journal Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism.

Researchers also learnt that while 19.2% boys and 18.1% girls were either overweight or obese, and a massive 65% of their mothers were in a similar condition. This equates to at least 15m overweight children in India.

Parents no role models

The shocking nature of these figures might well stem from the fact that parents’ awareness levels about diet are low, and many think that their child’s obesity was no more than baby fat, and it would eventually go away, the survey revealed.

Many also consider food healthy as long as it is “hygienically prepared”; and worse, 89.2%, 79.2% and 55.1% respectively believe that refined vegetable oils, ghee and butter are good for health.

While mothers might think they have been setting a good example, the DFI study suggests the opposite: while up to 92% of the kids surveyed said they had more than two snacks a day, almost 64% of mothers indulged the same way. 

This is the first clear survey showing that the knowledge, attitude and practices of mothers influence their children's eating behaviour,” said Dr Anoop Misra, director of the DFI. “Urgent work is therefore required to raise their awareness levels.” 

The children were mostly knowledgeable about hypertension, high sugar and heart disease, but high triglycerides was a grey area. In the case of mothers, the ignorance about triglycerides and cancer was 81% and 67%. 

Time to act

According to Dr Seema Gulati, chief project officer at the DFI: “Many mothers consider packaged food healthy because it is hygienic, little realising that these often had sweeteners, salts, artificial flavours and preservatives.

"It's time nutritionists targeted this group more intensively to achieve good health results for India."

So what’s in store? More of the same, probably, with over 70% of children unwilling to cut down on their junk food consumption and almost half happy not to take any exercise. Moreover, 66% of children said they were affected by advertising.

On the whole, kids from higher-income, highly educated households were most likely to be obese—quite the opposite of the norm in the West. Those in private schools were the most overweight or obese

But all was not bleak. Of the 300 students attending government-funded schools, only 7.9% of boys and 10% girls were overweight/obese. In contrast, of the remaining 1,500 in private schools, 22.2% of boys and 19.2% of girls were overweight/obese. 

5 comments (Comments are now closed)

Culturally insensitive and scientifically inaccurate

Too many people still believe that saturated fat is bad. The research is much more nuanced. The USDA, FDA, and Am Heart Association have a lot of work to do to correct their misguided advice. The trick is how to change their stance and still save face. In the meantime, the Indian mothers will do well to continue to prepare traditional whole foods with pastured butter (or ghee) and stay away from highly processed and adulterated foods. Of course, that's true for Americans and everyone else on the planet. So, what about the role of food industry?

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Posted by Bonnie Modugno, MS, RD
06 February 2013 | 16h39

ghee and butter are actually quite healthy

Natural unprocessed saturated fats actually are healthy. Coconut oil, ghee, butter, wild game fat, etc. Any culture that has subsisted on these prior to including processed foods containing sugar and white flour, to their diets were indeed very healthy.
Ghee has been consumed in India for 10's of thousands of years, and only recently in the last decade have they experienced significant increases in obesity, diabetes and other diet related disease. Fats are not all equal, for example hydrogenated and trans-fats like shortening and margarine. Healthy saturated fats are essential for life, while a low fat diet is deadly.

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Posted by MA
06 February 2013 | 06h30

Yes, Ghee and Butter are Good for Health. Supported by 5000 years history of usage.

Ghee and Butter is consumed in India from several thousands of years. Yes Ghee and Butter is high in saturated fatty acids and low in PUFA. But there are NO Scientific evidence to prove that Ghee and Butter is unhealthy and can cause cholesterol imbalance. In fact, Ghee is used as a best curing medication to rectify cholesterol imbalance in human body by 5000 year old zero side effect Ayurveda. It is animal fat from animal meat food causing all the bad cholesterol health issues. if you consume meat, you can see that bad cholesterol is increasing in body drastically. at the same time, take the same amount of ghee and test for bad cholesterol. You can verify in front of your eyes, your good cholesterol which support heart health will have improved significantly. So Indian Mums are 101% correct in their trust on Ghee and Butter. Try yourself instead of believing rumors

Subheesh
Food Scientist

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Posted by Subheesh
06 February 2013 | 02h14

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