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Is concern for diabetes, obesity, heart diseases changing food habits of Gen X? | Health

Modern-day diseases like heart disease, cancer and diabetes have been becoming major health concerns in India and the WHO estimates that about 61% of all deaths in the country have been caused by such diseases where the incidence of diabetes has gone up from about 41 million in 2007 to around 72 million in 2017. Similarly, there has been an alarming rise in the number of heart disease cases where the total number of people who lost their lives due to heart attacks jumped from 18,000 in 2015 to more than 28,000 in 2021 but things can change for the better very soon, led by those born between 1965 and 1980 i.e. Gen X – the generation that queued up to eat fast food and is also the one that is ready to dump the junk.

Is the growing concern for diabetes, obesity, heart diseases changing the food habits of Gen X? (Photo by Askar Abayev on Pexels)
Is the growing concern for diabetes, obesity, heart diseases changing the food habits of Gen X? (Photo by Askar Abayev on Pexels)

Almost half of the urban middle class surveyed recently in the country have changed their diet to prevent the onset of lifestyle diseases. A study conducted by The Indian Dietetic Association (IDA), Mumbai Chapter and Country Delight has found that gut or digestive health is the main reason for modern-day or lifestyle diseases since dietary preferences have a huge bearing on the overall health of a person and change in the diet can lead to the prevalence of many lifestyle diseases.

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Safala Mahadik RD, CDE, Senior Dietitian at KEM Hospital in Mumbai, revealed, “While the traditional Indian food habits have been rich in fiber and important nutrients, there was a gradual shift towards processed foods and fast foods which caused the diets of many Indians to acquire the lethal combination of high-fat and low-fiber intake. This led to a significant imbalance in the gut microbiota, thus causing inflammation and various other health issues.”

Increasing awareness

Safala Mahadik shared, “Thankfully there is a growing awareness among people about the linkage between Dietary preferences and disease. According to the survey, carried out by Country Delight in association with IDA Mumbai, about 80% of people believe that digestive issues lead to long-term lifestyle diseases. The survey has also highlighted the fact that 7 out of every 10 people suffer from some digestive medical condition and acidity or heartburn. Among those who suffer from these issues, about 59% underwent such conditions every week and 12% experienced it every day.”

She opined, “The marketing campaigns of certain large corporations and food companies may be one reason why there has been a shift in the food habits of people – from fiber-rich to fat-rich. Interestingly, more than 50% of people are aware that junk food or chemically processed food leads to gut health problems, yet a staggering 63% of people choose some form of junk or processed or packaged food every week. Among these, about 19% consume it every day, according to the survey.”

Dietary habits

Cautioning that poor dietary patterns can lead to several health issues including obesity and other diseases, Safala Mahadik said, “Dietary habits that include sugary drinks and high-fat foods can cause obesity which is a significant risk factor for diabetes, heart disease, etc. The poor effect of these kinds of food choices is evident from the fact that the survey respondents who said they consume junk or processed or packaged food every week, about 68% suffer from gastric issues. This is significantly more than those who consume such food items less than once a week.”

She suggested, “To prevent present-day lifestyle diseases, it is paramount to curb the intake of processed foods, and chemical-laden food items. It is also important to curtail the intake of cholesterol and saturated fat that can play havoc with the health of the people. The bright side of the prevailing health quagmire in the country is that 6 out of every 10 people know that their diet played an important role in preventing lifestyle diseases and therefore has brought about alterations in their last few years. About 67% of the survey respondents also said that they look for chemically free natural food items for their daily diet. People in the age group of 35-44 years and quite a few women showed a higher preference for food items with fewer preservatives/ high nutritional value/ longer shelf life/farm fresh. The top purchase drivers that are emerging in the country include chemical-free foods followed by ingredients and nutritive value, something that bodes well for the health of the citizens of the nation.”

According to her, a further push to make people aware of the choices of their food on their health can be fruitful from the point of view of bringing down the health care costs in the country since such lifestyle diseases cause a severe drain on the financial resources and health infrastructure. Safala Mahadik concluded, “Efforts should also be made to check the marketing campaigns of brands that use more chemicals and push junk food. There can also be policy-level support for building an environment where food items and brands that promote natural food items can get more attention from consumers. Such a move will make India even more healthy and will help the nation reap the demographic dividend of being the youngest country in the world. ”

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