Dhaka, Wednesday, May 23, 2018

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Junk food causes serious health hazard to children

DHAKA, Jan 26, 2018 (BSS) - As school children are increasingly becoming fond of taking junk food containing high calories and saturated fat, it is indicative of a major health concern that may stand on way to build a healthy nation.

Lack of cautionary guidelines and social awareness about ill effects of junk food, children and youngsters are getting prone to the habit of junk food as parents are less attentive to discouraging taking of unhealthy junk food that is easy to eat.

As nutritionists observe high calories in fast food turn children obese and these foods contain saturated fat which is very harmful to health, it needs urgent attention of all concerned to save children and youngsters.

Shohan, a class III student of Motijheel Ideal School and College, is no exception to develop such a luring food-habit as he is keen on eating fried chicken and cold drink after his school time.

This minor boy was found running to his mother immediately after school time requesting her to buy a chicken fry for him. "I'm hungry. Please, buy for me a chicken fry," said Sohan clasping hands of his mother Jebun Nahar.

Reciprocating to her son's request, affectionate mother started fondling him and proceeding to a nearby fast food shop and bought a fried chicken and a soft drink for Sohan.

Talking to this correspondent, Jebun Nahar said her son used to make such requests every day after school time. "He doesn't take homemade foods that I use to give him for Tiffin. So I bought for him fast food after school time," she added.

Interviewing a dozen of parents of school-going children in the capital, this correspondent found that addiction to junk food is gradually increasing as the tender-aged boys are falling easy prey to such harmful food-habit.

Asked whether they are aware of the harmful effects of taking fast food items in abundance, dozens of parents expressed identical views about junk food habit. "They are children. So they need to have more foods. When they will grow up, they will be aware of their food habit," said Kohinur Begum.

Sexagenarian Kohinur Begum, who went to receive her grandson from school said, "Decades ago, homemade cake used to be favourite food to children. My children loved to have homemade food. But the situation has now changed drastically. Now my grandson love to eat chicken fries."

In 2010 alone, obesity and overweight were estimated to have caused 3.4 million deaths globally, mostly from cardiovascular causes, according to the IHME study published in the UK-based medical journal The Lancet.

For want of public awareness programme, non-communicable disease like obesity is spreading among new generation which may impact on the country in future, nutritionists said. According to them, obese and overweight people have higher risks of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, osteoarthritis, liver and gallbladder diseases, and respiratory problems.

Experts say excessive intake of calorie-rich food and less physical activity are major reasons behind overweight and obesity among urban people.

According to a study titled 'Obesity prevalence and patterns of diet and physical activity among children and adolescents in urban areas in Bangladesh' undertaken by ICDDR,B shows that 10 percent of children aged between 5-18 years old are overweight while four percent are obese.

The study was conducted in seven cities across Bangladesh. Around 4,100 children living in 30 wards of each of the seven city corporation areas participated in the study. Body mass index (BMI) was calculated using the age and sex specific BMI values set by the International Obesity Task Force.

Dr. Md. Nizamul Hoque Buiyan, Professor of Institute of Nutrition and Food Science, said the fast food being eaten by children between the ages of 5 and 18 years is not nutritious. "Children are not eating vegetables and fruits at all. These fast foods are leading to serious health problems," he said.

"Parents are mainly responsible for it. They meet their children's demands instead of discouraging them about fast food," he said, suggesting parents to be more cautious about fast food culture.

The ICDDR, B study indicates that there is a double burden of both under- nutrition, which is 30 percent, and over-nutrition, that accounts for 14 percent of the surveyed children.

A sharp decrease in the prevalence of underweight was observed with increase in age among the children, but a slow rise in overweight and obesity was observed with increase in age, the study said.

Prof AK Azad Khan, President of Diabetic Association of Bangladesh, said children are getting fond of taking fast food and cold drinks rich in sugar and calories, but no cautionary guidelines are there from the authorities.

"There are two negative impacts of fast food. For instance, burger contains excessive calories which turn children obese. On the other hand, these foods contain trans fat and saturated fat which are very harmful to health," he said.

Many countries have banned fast food's advertisement for children. "In our country there is no such guideline. Moreover, fast food shops are being set up targeting school children," he said. This practice should be stopped to save the future generation from health hazard, he added.