The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Junk food, no play make city kids fat

Alarmed by the death of overweight 11-month-old Lokman Hakim, an increasing number of parents of obese children are heading for the doctor's chamber.

'It is worrying to see the increasing number of obese children being brought into hospitals and clinics in the past 20-odd days,' said Apurba Ghosh, paediatrician and director, Institute of Child Health.

'Obesity among children ' especially in the higher-income group ' is rapidly increasing in the city,' he added, identifying junk food and no play as the prime culprits.

After the 21-kg Murshidabad child's sudden death, however, doctors are having an easier time convincing parents something is, indeed, wrong with their overweight children, and that they aren't merely 'healthy'.

'We are telling parents that obesity is linked to diabetes, appendicitis, lung disorders and psychological problems,' explained Ghosh.

The Rastogis, for instance. The parents of three-year-old Rahul, who weighs 19.5 kg, decided to consult a doctor after becoming concerned that their son could be in danger.

Estimates put the number of obese children in the three-11 years' age-group at an astounding 30-40 per cent in the city, compared with 20 per cent about three years ago.

'The reasons for this sharp increase is multi-factorial, but the genetic reasons have been overtaken by factors like lack of physical activity, more restaurant food and increasing fat intake,' explained Chandan Ray, consultant paediatrician at Bhagirathi Neotia Woman and Child Care Centre.

Urban affluence, inadequate supervision of children (with both partners working), the spurt in eating out and processed food are all contributing to increased obesity, say experts.

Add to that the idiot box. 'Television has emerged as the living room baby-sitter, with two-to-five-year-olds watching approximately 25 hours of TV a week,' said Moushumi Sehgal, of the paediatric ward at the Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences.

Milan Chhetri, who treats more adult obese patients than children at his clinic in Apollo Gleneagles Hospital, believes uncontrolled obesity has the potential to take on deadly proportions. 'I have been seeing a lot of patients with morbid (life-threatening) obesity. Most of them go to plastic surgeons for procedures such as liposuction, but they end up in obesity clinics as well,' Chhetri observed.

Hospitals have also been cashing in, with many of them setting up obesity clinics.

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