The proportion of overweight or obese women in India has increased from 21 per cent in 2015-16 to to 24 per cent in 2019-20, according to the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-5 report.
Among men, the proportion has risen to 23 per cent from 19 per cent that was recorded when NFHS-4 took place.
The highest proportion of overweight or obese women is found in Puducherry (46 per cent) followed by Chandigarh (44 per cent), Delhi, Tamil Nadu, and Punjab (41 per cent each), and Kerala and Andaman & Nicobar Islands (38 per cent each), according to the report.
For the first time, the 2019-20 NFHS has measured the waist circumference and hip circumference of women and men between 15 and 49 years of age. This information was used to calculate the waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), which helps to identify the distribution of body fat and predicts abdominal obesity. Abdominal obesity is associated with an increased risk of type-2 diabetes mellitus, myocardial infarction, stroke, and premature death.
According to the NFHS-5 report ,more than half (57 per cent) of women and 48 per cent of men have a WHR that puts them at a substantially increased risk of metabolic complications.
WHR is calculated by dividing the waist measurement by the hip measurement with the formula: waist circumference/hip circumference. According to WHO, a healthy WHR is 0.9 or less in men and 0.85 or less for women.
When contacted, Dr Shashank Shah, Past President of Obesity Surgery Society of India, told The Indian Express that what is worrying is that not only has there been an increase in obesity but also metabolic syndrome – a cluster of conditions that increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
“There are several reasons for this rising trend among which external environmental pollutants are also contributing factors. There are studies that show links between exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals and obesity. Not only are we seeing early onset of diabetes and hypertension but I have been witnessing cases of fatty liver in every alternate patient who visits the clinic,” Dr Shah said.
The survey found the proportion of adults with an increased risk WHR increasing with age, from 46 per cent for girls in 15-19 group to 65 per cent in women in the 40-49 group. Among male population, it was found at 28 per cent in 15-19 group and 60 per cent in 40-49 group. The proportion of people having a substantially increased risk WHR was found higher in urban areas than rural areas for both women (60 per cent in urban area over 55 per cent in rural area) and men (50 per cent in urban area as compared to 46 per cent in rural area).
The proportion of women having a substantially increased risk WHR was found to be highest in Jammu & Kashmir (88 per cent) and lowest in Madhya Pradesh at 40 per cent. For men, Chandigarh topped the list with 67 per cent while Meghalaya was at the bottom with 25 per cent.