India

Packaged food and fizzy drinks not behind India’s diabetes spike

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Most of India's calories come from homemade food
Most of India's calories come from homemade food

Related tags Nutrition

Despite living among the highest population of diabetics in the world, Indians consumed just one-fifth of the global daily average for calories through packaged food and soft drinks last year.

The figures, released by market research provider Euromonitor International, suggest that Indians would consume just 151 calories, compared to the global figure of 765, per day from fizzy drinks, snacks and processed food.

India ranked among the lowest in sugar, fat, carbohydrates and salt content from packaged food and drinks while the US and Europe consumed 10 times more in comparison.

However, experts have suggested comparing India and the West is not possible in this regard, given the subcontinent’s taste for homemade food and its small packaged food market.

Indians consume calories mostly in unpackaged format through homemade food, which is generally calorie dense compared to western countries​,” Devendra Chawla, president of Future Group's food and FMCG business, told Economic Times. 

[In the West], cooked food is protein-rich and relatively healthy but consumption of processed products is several times more. Also Indian consumers have a preference for street food which is mostly deep-fried and calorie-rich​." 

In spite of its reputation as the diabetes capital of the world, India has been witnessing a new, more health conscious breed of consumers, while the government has even been considering a ban on junk food in schools. 

At the same time, fast-food chains have been trying to overcome criticism that their dishes are unhealthy, given the amount of sugar, salt and chemical additives contained.

Oils and fats, bakery and dairy are the top three contributors of calories, with bakery being the leading source of protein delivering up to 5g per day—2g more than dried processed food. Indians only purchase an average of 0.36g of fibre each day from packaged food and soft drinks. 

With 20% of the Indian population currently overweight or obese, by 2019, each person is expected to buy 58 calories more per capita per day, according to Euromonitor.

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