The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Stay-at-home teenagers turn into rosogollas

Mumbai, April 11: You want all your neighbours to call your child sweet and podgy, right' The chubbier the better, you think, so that the aunty next door says: “Our Golu is such a darling, just like a rosogolla.”

Well, don’t tempt fate any more. Schoolchildren and teenagers have already gained an alarming average of 10 kg — yes, you heard it right — in the last two decades.

Researchers who conducted the study shudder at what would happen to teenagers if the trend continues. The research is Mumbai specific and focuses on middle-class children, but the results could easily hold true of other cities and metros.

The study, conducted by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan-Swami Prakashanand Ayurvedic Research Centre, Juhu, was begun in 1980, targeting around 7,000 schoolchildren in Andheri and Vile Parle. Twenty years on, it has thrown up scary figures.

Sample this for starters. The research centre results show that boys between 14 and 16 have added 10 kg with no corresponding increase in height. Girls have matched them pound for pound, adding an average of 7 kg.

Likewise, the average weight of children from 6 to 16 has gone up by five to eight kilos, again with no corresponding height increase.

So if the uncle weighed 50 kg when he was 16, the nephew could well weigh 60. And for all the chatter about girls going on an extensive diet to look like Tyra Banks, the fact is 21 per cent are now considered obese.

What is more worrying is that the age barrier for “middle-aged” ailments like diabetes and hypertension has been broken. More teenagers are likely to have these diseases before touching 35.

The growing obesity also means that boys have problems like gynaecomastia (a condition in which the breasts grow bigger and genitals get correspondingly smaller) and girls have to deal with menstrual dysfunction and hirsutism (excessive hair growth on face).

The results are shocking but the reasons are ordinary: little outdoor activity, greater burden in school, the fast-food fad and the boom in electronic entertainment, be it cartoons, video games or computer games. The child is now happier to be home than ever before.

“Look around you, how many children do you see in parks and maidans'” asks Praful Kaul, a practitioner of homeopathic medicine.

“My daughter has never played any sport. She is 13, but I have never seen a bruise on her knee from running in sandy sports fields, the way we used to. Then there is her educational load in school and the competition. We, too, are to blame.”

There are critics who say the research should have been conducted across all socio-economic segments. But even they agree on one thing: middle class India is growing very big round the middle.

So, next time someone calls your kid “Golu” or “rosogolla”, don’t smile.

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