Lifestyle diseases biggest killers: CSE

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Experts say foods high in salt, sugar and fat are leading to rise in such ailments

Unless environmental risk factors are acknowledged and dealt with, India will not be able to curb Non Communicable diseases (NCDs) that are responsible for more than 61% of deaths in the country, noted a report released by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) on Monday.

The study titled ‘Body Burden: Lifestyle Diseases’ investigates the new and emerging environmental triggers of NCDs in India

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are four major risk factors for NCDs; alcohol, tobacco, poor diet intake and lack of physical activity.

The real enemy

“The WHO is still coy in calling out the real enemy: foods that are high in salt, sugar, fat and low in nutrition. It wants to play it safe so that it does not have to confront the real players and demand a restraint on their products, not through voluntary action, but through government policies that put a premium on nutrition, not consumption,” said Sunita Narain, director general of CSE.

The study has listed seven major health problems in India, including obesity, mental health, cancer, heart disease, respiratory and hormonal disorder.

“The number of overweight and obese people in India doubled between 2005 and 2015, while 26% of all deaths happen due to cardiovascular diseases. There were an estimated 22.2 million chronic obstructive pulmonary disease patients and around 35 million chronic asthma patients in 2016,” noted the study.

While the WHO stated that an investment of US $1-3 per person per year could dramatically reduce illness and death from Non Communicable diseases, the CSE noted that the investment for India would be much higher.

High cost

“We believe the cost is going to be much higher considering that risk factors in India are more than the four identified by the global body. These risk factors have multiple targets and can cause diseases that are not generally linked to them. For example, exposure to pesticides is known to cause cancer, but new data is emerging to link it to diabetes as well,” said Ms. Narain.

“Targeting environmental risk factors is essential if we want to meet the Sustainable Development Goal 3.4, which mandates a one-third reduction in premature deaths due to lifestyle diseases by 2030,” said Vibha Varshney, lead writer of the report.