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Is obesity becoming a public health problem in India? Examine the shift from under- to overnutrition problems over time

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This study aimed to examine the prevalence and trends of overweight, obesity and undernutrition in recent decades in India. Based on a systematic literature search on PubMed and other data sources, most published studies were regional or local surveys in urban areas, while good representative data from the India National Family Health Surveys (NFHS, 1992–1993, 1998–1999 and 2005–2006) allowed for examining the trends at the national level. Overall, the available data showed that in India, prevalence of overweight was low while that of undernutrition remained high. Overweight was more prevalent among female, urban and high-socioeconomic-status (SES) groups. NFHS data showed that the prevalence of overweight in women and pre-school children did not increase much in the last decade: 10.6% and 1.6% in 1998–1999 to 12.6% and 1.5% in 2005–2006 respectively. As for underweight, NFHS 2005–2006 showed high prevalence among ever-married women (about 35%) and pre-school children (about 42%). The prevalence of overweight and obesity had increased slightly over the past decade in India, but in some urban and high-SES groups it reached a relatively high level. Factors associated with undernutrition need closer examination, and prevention of obesity should be targeted at the high-risk groups simultaneously.
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Keywords: Body mass index; India; obesity; underweight

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Center for Human Nutrition, Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, USA; 2: Division of Noncommunicable Diseases, Indian Council of Medical Research, New Delhi, India

Publication date: July 1, 2009

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