It’s all in the label!

Dr. GM Subba Rao

Did you know that India has the largest adolescent population in the world and is home to over 20% of the world’s adolescents? Did you know that 10-19 year-olds constitute about 243 million of India’s population of 1.2 billion? Did you know that various studies conducted among school children across the country indicate that 10-15% of them are either overweight or obese? If the current rates of growth in overweight and obesity among adolescents continue, we may soon witness a higher proportion of adults being overweight and obese than currently observed in developed countries.

While there are many reasons for the increase in the prevalence of obesity, frequent consumption of unhealthy processed foods is an important risk factor. Consumption of non-traditional fast foods, processed foods, and packed foods has been increasing in India at a rapid pace among all age groups, more so among adolescents and children of urban areas. It is said that there has been a 300% rise in the consumption of packaged foods over the last 20 years in emerging economies like ours. In the present scenario, when there are shifts away from meals to snacks and from ‘at-home’ to ‘pre-packaged’ foods, children should be equipped with skills to choose healthy food.

The author is a Senior Scientist with the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), Hyderabad. His research work has critically examined and evaluated the use of different methods, processes and communication tools to promote nutrition in different community settings. He can be reached at

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