Adolescence is a crucial phase of life where individuals undergo rapid physical, emotional and cognitive changes as it is during this period that habits are formed, shaping the trajectory of one’s health and well-being in the years to come hence, the significance of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle plays a pivotal role in preventing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) among adolescents. NCDs including diabetes are a really huge and growing problem in India and the latest ICMR study shows that there are a staggering 100 million diabetics and 139 million pre-diabetics, up from only 4 years ago but we know these diseases are largely preventable and we know from landmark studies and the WHO that 80% of type 2 diabetes is preventable with 3 lifestyle changes – one must eat right, increase physical activity and avoid tobacco.
In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Rajeev Gupta, Director – Internal Medicine at CK Birla Hospital in Delhi, shared, “Nutrition serves as the foundation for optimal growth and development during adolescence. A well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats provides essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals necessary for the body’s proper functioning. It not only fuels physical activities but also supports cognitive abilities and emotional well-being.”
Talking about how adopting a healthy lifestyle is pivotal in reducing the risk of NCDs, he said, “Regular physical activity promotes cardiovascular fitness, strengthens bones, and improves mental health. Engaging in activities such as sports, yoga, or even brisk walking not only helps maintain a healthy weight but also reduces the likelihood of developing conditions like obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. Equally important is recognising the detrimental effects of unhealthy lifestyle choices.”
He cautioned, “Excessive consumption of sugary beverages, processed foods, and fast food, combined with a sedentary lifestyle spent glued to screens, can pave the way for a multitude of NCDs. Empowering adolescents with knowledge about nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices is paramount. By encouraging them to make informed decisions, we can instil lifelong habits that promote overall health and well-being. Let us prioritise the role of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle in preventing NCDs among adolescents, for it is in their hands that the future of global health resides.”
Dr Nalini Saligram, Founder and CEO at Arogya World, highlighted, “Prevention through lifestyle change is a smart solution to this seemingly intractable public health crisis. Indians get diabetes young – at age 30. Risk factors start in adolescence – we know that 75% of India’s children are physically inactive, that 10% of young adolescents are pre-diabetic and a third of India’s 10-year olds shockingly have high blood pressure. Something must be done. It is important to intervene in early adolescence before lifestyle habits are set. Knowing that unhealthy eating is the number one cause of death, we must use compelling games and activities to get middle school children to learn about healthy and unhealthy foods, about the importance of balanced meals and eating 2-3 fresh fruits and vegetables every day.”
She suggested, “Appreciate that they can be champions of healthy eating, use their pester power to reduce the consumption of unhealthy foods like carbonated drinks and chips and junk food at home. That they can get their family’s attention by choosing a fruit and a handful of nuts rather than a samosa for after school snack, or pick rajma-chawal rather than chana bhatura or fruit chaat over alu tikki. They must go out and play, something today’s kids do very little of. Not only will we set them up for a lifetime of health, we will also help our country have a productive next generation workforce.”
Courtesy – www.hindustantimes.com