Half of India’s adolescents (10 to 19 years) — almost 63 million girls and 81 million boys — are either short, thin, overweight or obese says a report released in a high-level meeting at the NITI Aayog, together with UNICEF India, on Thursday.
The report says that over 80 percent of adolescents also suffer from ‘hidden hunger’, i.e. the deficiency of one or more micronutrients such as iron, folate, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin B12 and vitamin D.
The new report reveals that almost all adolescents in India have unhealthy or poor diets. This is the main cause for all forms of malnutrition.
Key facts on the poor diets of adolescents include:
• Fruits and eggs are consumed daily by less than 10 percent of boys and girls.
• Over 25 percent of adolescents reported no consumption of green leafy vegetables even once a week.
• Milk products are consumed by 50 percent of adolescents daily.
Growing incomes and increased spending on food has translated to greater consumption of fried foods, junk foods, sweets and aerated drinks. Today, 10 to 19-year-olds in every Indian state face an increased risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Adolescent girls especially suffer multiple nutritional deprivations. The report finds:
• More girls suffer from shortness than boys.
• Anaemia affects 40 percent of adolescent girls, compared to 18 percent of boys, and worsens as they get older.
• The findings reveal that nearly 25 percent of girls and boys do not receive any of the four school-based services (mid-day meal, biannual health check-ups, biannual deworming and weekly iron folic acid supplementation).
• The report also recognises how important it is that meals and snacks at home be nutritious. Campaigns on healthy food choices should be centred around the promotion of a variety of items in appropriate proportions at home.
• Risks for non-communicable diseases are established in childhood and adolescence. For example, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and hypertension among adolescents is increasing.
• All girls and boys are unable to meet the 60 minutes per day recommended outdoor sports and exercise time. On an average, girls in late adolescence spend only 10 minutes per day on such activities. Boys do relatively better, with exercise time of 40 to 50 minutes per day.
• The report recommends that adolescents themselves be supported as mobilizers and co-implementers at schools and other platforms they access, to spread the right nutrition messages to aid India’s Jan Andolan to end malnutrition.