The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
The problem swells with puppy fat
- Fight-flab drive throws up disturbing facts on child obesity, diabetes

‘Lose weight now! Ask me how!’ are words plastered all over the city. Dial a number to achieve the perfect vitals, with the help of a few magic potions… ‘Pay Rs 2,500 and drop five kilos’, or so go the ads for a slimming centre.

Is looking good getting cheap' It isn’t. It isn’t getting any easier, either. Or so medical science would tell us. In fact, it’s time to counter-act fad diets and miracle products that cash in on insecurity and a resistance to shedding a decadent lifestyle. And as a symptom of a far-from-healthy way of life, childhood obesity is also on the rise in town, bringing with it diabetes in tow.

The latest to offer a more scientific solution to Calcutta’s flab, the “first multi-disciplinary medical clinic” to tackle the escalating problem of obesity, is to start off this November. An endocrinologist, dietician, counsellor and even a surgeon will be at hand once a week at Suraksha for a complete examination of patients wishing to get into shape.

Spearheaded by endocrinologist Binayak Sinha, the centre will assess the patient’s condition, medical risks and complications and even address “emotional eating” and other disorders. The doctor, whose research at the University of Birmingham was on the relationship between obesity and infertility in women, has been attending to at least “five patients a week”, seeking solutions to growing girth. “These have mainly been women, but the alarming trend has been a large number of children, around 11 or 12 years old, being brought in by their parents,” adds Sinha. Even more disturbing has been a growing incidence of diabetes in these kids.

“Parents often don’t realise they have a role to play in the child’s fitness. They feel if they feed them well, it is good enough.” So meat and fish may be good, but not in excess, advises the doctor.

“Many patients come and say, ‘But doctor, we use only shuddh ghee’. But shuddh ghee (just milk fat) is shuddh poison,” he stresses. Children, under growing pressure to perform academically, are also not allowed to play enough. They, like adults, have fallen prey to a sedentary lifestyle.

Recent research indicates that Indians have a greater propensity to develop obesity-related cardio-vascular illness than say, Caucasians. In fact, a body mass index (BMI) of around 25 is enough to put an Indian into the obese range, though conventionally, the tag is only earned once BMI hits 30. Also, Indian women are at a greater risk of infertility and U-tract trouble.

At the Salt Lake clinic, those suffering from morbid obesity can turn to a surgeon, who can, as the worst-case scenario, conduct a gastric-stapling procedure to decrease the size of the stomach and prevent the intake of too much food.

Sinha is critical of “cowboy clinics” that offer quick-fix solutions, saying that a lifestyle change, involving healthy eating and enough exercise, is the only way to improve quality of life. Health drinks, too, are apparently ineffective, as once the user stops consumption, the original weight — and then some — has been documented to come back.

But VLCC, a slimming centre, defends its techniques as holistic. “We have recently introduced a package for decreasing waist-to-hip ratio, which has been found to cause cardio-vascular problems if the waistline grows too much,” explains a spokesperson. Stress management is also included in the packages.

But there is nothing to replace a good workout, reiterates Ritika Kumar of Add Life gym. “People want to look good, but they are also becoming more aware about the need to be healthy,” says Kumar. Personal charts are created at the Camac Street gym, to ensure that individual needs are met.

Add Life, too, has caught on to the dangers of childhood obesity, and it recently held a seminar on the subject. A teenage package, launched last month, has already seen 15 enrolments.

“Calcutta needs someone to talk about the ills of obesity. Baby fat is no longer cute,” concludes Kumar.

Email This Page