In a country with widespread malnutrition, researchers from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, have highlighted another dietary cause for concern in India: obesity.

Published in the October edition of the Journal of Nutrition 2001, the study led by Drs Paula Griffiths and Margaret E Bentley surveyed 4,032 women in the state of Andhra Pradesh, which has a population of 80 million. They found that in the cities, 37% of women are clinically overweight or obese. Statewide, that figure is reduced to 12%.
The study concludes that lifestyle is a major factor in the onset of obesity, and heavy weight was often indicative of a large income or an increased amount of time watching television.

Religion was also a significant factor, with Muslim women more likely to be overweight than women from other faiths, mainly Hindus.

A senior consultant nutritionist from New Delhi, Ishi Khosla, told Reuters Health: “Obesity is becoming a chronic problem with many Indian women because of the improper, unbalanced diet they consume and the sedentary lives they lead.

Significant weight gain is often a sign of poor nutrition, he added, and eating between meals: “In India, the most popular snacks are often deep-fried savouries, and they are real favourites with women.”

The study is the latest in a string into obesity in India since the late 1990s, and nutritionists are urging that the issue by given more attention. Some surveys have suggested that there are as many as 100 million obese people in India.