An initiative to counter the growing obesity epidemic was launched by doctors and dietary experts at the Karachi Press Club on Tuesday.
“Around four million people die annually due to obesity and diseases related to it alone in Pakistan,” said bariatric surgeon Dr Tanvir Raazi Ahmed.
Dr Ahmed explained obesity causes most of the non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and various cancers, including breast and ovarian cancer among women.
Half of the population is believed to be suffering from non-communicable diseases. Nearly 14 million children in the country have become obese and the total number of people with obesity has crossed 45 million in Pakistan.
“Unfortunately, the focus of our authorities is on establishment of health facilities instead of prevention from diseases. We don’t have enough resources to treat everybody so there is a need to promote a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet,” said Pakistan Nutrition and Dietetic Society President Fayza Khan.
She said March would be observed as a ‘nutrition month’. Awareness activities will be held to promote a healthy lifestyle.
The nutrition society also signed a memorandum of understanding with the ‘Fight Obesity’ initiative to regularly hold awareness activities about a healthy lifestyle, physical activities and consumption of balanced food.
The conference also discussed how obesity affects mental health and vice versa.
“Obesity is one of the causes of depression and anxiety in both men and women,” said psychiatrist and the president of Pakistan Psychiatric Society, Dr Iqbal Afridi.
We need to educate people about consuming food in limited quantities as it is a healthy practice, Dr Afridi said, adding that it would improve physical and mental health.
Apart from lifestyle and dietary changes, Dr Afridi said sparing time for worship or meditation was also necessary.
Since healthy practices are developed from early childhood, the experts urged on reformation of school canteens by eliminating sugary beverages and junk food, as well as increasing the focus on sports.
“We need to educate our children to have an active life and encourage them to regularly take part in sports,” said Younis Khan, a former captain of the Pakistan cricket team.