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TCI Calls Attention to Rising Obesity in India

Fried food in a shop window
Fried food is displayed at a shop in Bombay, India. (Photo by Shreyans Bhansali. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Tackling the obesity crises in urban and rural India will require a push for healthier behaviors anchored by policy changes designed to improve access to diverse, nutritious foods, say researchers at the Tata-Cornell Institute (TCI).

Writing in the Financial Express, TCI Director Prabhu Pingali, gender and nutrition specialist Shubh Swain, and postdoctoral associate Andaleeb Rahman warn that new data from India’s National Family Health Survey shows that obesity is on the rise and increasing most rapidly in rural areas.

Pingali, Swain, and Rahman tie rising obesity rates to lifestyle changes linked to urbanization and structural issues in India’s agricultural system that favor calorie-dense staple grains. Programs designed to promote healthy eating would be helpful, they write, but ultimately India must make nutritious foods more accessible and affordable.

“A helpful first step would be moving away from the heavy focus on calorie-dense food crops by reforming policies that incentivize staple grain production even as the overall calorie requirement in India is declining,” they write. “Farmers should instead be incentivized to grow a diverse array of nutritious crops, and the government must ensure that a robust infrastructure, including market access, is created to make such foods available and affordable to people in rural areas.”

Read the full op-ed on FinancialExpress.com: “NFHS data reveals rising obesity crises in India”