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Tobacco, unhealthy diet, no exercise top risk factors for Indian youth, says report

# Seven of every 10 boys and girls in the 13-15 years age group in India get too little exercise, meaning less than 60 minutes per day. More than one in five of them is overweight or obese, placing them at a high risk of developing non communicable diseases (NCDs)

# Among school students in India aged between 13 and 15 years, 19 per cent boys and 8 per cent girls have used a tobacco product in the past month Tobacco and alcohol use, unhealthy diet and physical inactivity have emerged as top risk factors among youth, say Toshiko Kaneda and Reshma Naik, authors of a new report by Population Reference Bureau that was released in New Delhi Thursday.

This report comes close on the heels of a World Health Organisation report released two days ago, emphasising how big a problem NCDs are in the region. According to WHO, NCDs account for 60 per cent of all deaths in India. In India, there is a 26 per cent chance of dying prematurely — aged between 30 and 70 — due to the four major NCDs.
“Promoting healthy behaviour among young people is key to curbing a growing epidemic of non-communicable diseases,” Kaneda, senior research associate, and Naik, senior policy analyst, told The Indian Express.

The four main NCDs — cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes and cancers — are caused primarily by exposure to tobacco, harmful use of alcohol, unhealthy diet and little exercise. These behaviours often begin in adolescence or young adulthood and set the stage for NCDs later in life.

The food processing industry, which is one of the fastest growing sectors of the Indian economy and accounts for about 50-60 per cent of sugar, salt and fats consumed, makes it challenging to encourage youngsters to stick to a healthy diet.

The report authored by Kaneda and Naik, Addressing Non Communicable Disease Risk Factors Among Young People: Asia’s Window of Opportunity to Curb a Growing Epidemic points out that establishing healthy behaviour early in life could change the course of NCDs within a generation.

“India is taking relevant steps to address the health issues caused by harmful substances such as tobacco by introducing health warnings on tobacco packs, banning and restricting advertisement, promotion and sale, raising taxes to make them less affordable and accessible to the public. There is an urgent need to focus even more on fostering healthy behaviour among India’s youth,” Kaneda said.

The report recommends strengthening regulations governing the food industry such as setting maximum salt, sugar or saturated fat content in food products, food labelling, and taxes on soda.


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