The consumption of junk food (also called ‘fast food’) has increased significantly in recent decades, characterised by its high caloric content, excessive sugar, unhealthy fats, and low nutritional value.
Unfortunately, this trend has had dire consequences on public health, contributing to the global epidemic of type 2 diabetes.
Once considered a disease of middle-aged and older adults, type 2 diabetes is now affecting people of all ages, including children and adolescents.
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The relationship between the surge in junk food consumption and the incidence of type 2 diabetes has raised alarm among health professionals and researchers.
“It is a known fact that junk food leads to the consumption of more calories. This causes people to gain weight because junk food is calorie-dense and has a high quantity of fat and carbohydrates,” Dr Sunil Kumar Mishra, Senior Director, Endocrinology and Diabetology, Medanta, Gurugram told IANS.
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“To manage sugar levels in the body, the pancreas tries to increase insulin in the body but when a mismatch happens then diabetes develops. While junk food can affect both adults and children, I feel children are more at risk of developing diabetes because the rates of childhood obesity are increasing steadily,” he added.
According to an alarming new study led by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and published in the journal ‘The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology’, India is home to a whopping 315 million people with hypertension, and 101 million with diabetes.
The study also showed that 136 million Indians are pre-diabetic, 213 million people live with high cholesterol, 185 million suffer from high LDL cholesterol or bad cholesterol, while 254 million live with generalised obesity and 351 million have abdominal obesity.
These non-communicable diseases were also behind 65 per cent of deaths in India, and 40 per cent of hospitalisation, a study by Apollo Hospitals had revealed in April.
Experts are witnessing an increasing number of cases of type 2 diabetes in children, particularly among adolescents aged 12-18 years and younger people.
They believe there is a high chance that those who develop obesity as children, will continue to be obese as adults. Additionally, in young people with type 2 diabetes, there is a chance of complications as they grow older.
Recently, a food influencer was threatened by Cadbury after he exposed in a viral post on Instagram that their nutritional drink Bournvita contains added sugar and colours which can be unhealthy.
According to health professionals, people who can afford to eat a good diverse diet, which includes a good amount of vegetables or non-vegetarian foods, and fruits, actually need not take additional nutritional drinks.
“Continuous consumption of ultra-processed foods leads to obesity and keeps blood sugar levels consistently high, increasing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes,” Miloni Bhandari, Clinical Dietician and functional nutritionist, Surya Hospital and child super specialty, Pune told IANS.
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“Due to the presence of various flavours, flavour enhancers, colours, emulsifiers, emulsifying salts, artificial sweeteners, thickeners, and other additives such as anti-foaming, bulking, carbonating, foaming, gelling, and glazing agents, ultra-processed foods possess addictive qualities to the human brain,” she added.
While both children and adults can be affected, she said children with Type 2 diabetes may face a lifetime of managing the disease, which can lead to complications such as cardiovascular problems, kidney diseases, and vision impairment.
Therefore, health experts recommend that people should prioritise nutrition over taste and inculcate good eating habits in children and encourage them to play sports or just ensure a movement activity for 30 minutes a day.
They also stressed the need to educate people to make informed choices, embrace a balanced approach to nutrition and adopt healthier alternatives.
A balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats should be followed while limiting the intake of processed foods, saturated fats, trans fats, and sugary beverages.
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