Long known as a country of malnourished, underweight people, India is inching its way into becoming an obese country, a government survey has revealed.

An estimate in 2016 put 135 million Indians as overweight or obese - a number that has been growing rapidly over the years, and has put the country as the third most obese country in the world, behind the US and China, in a Lancet journal study.

According to the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5), nearly 23 per cent of men and 24 per cent of women in the country were found to have a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more. The same data also found that 3.4 per cent of children under five were now overweight.

For the record, BMI, which is calculated by taking an individual's height and weight into account, is the most accepted measure globally to classify people into "normal", "overweight", "obese" and "morbidly obese". World Health Organization (WHO) classifications say that a BMI of 25 or above is considered overweight.

"We are in an obesity epidemic in India and globally, and I fear it could soon become a pandemic if we don't address it soon," BBC quoted Dr Ravindran Kumeran, a Chennai surgeon cum founder of the Obesity Foundation of India, as warning.

Ravindran attributed the problem to sedentary lifestyles and the easy availability of cheap, fattening foods, especially in urban India.

According to WHO, too much body increased the risk of non-communicable diseases, including 13 types of cancer type-2 diabetes, heart problems, and lung conditions. Besides, obesity also accounted for 2.8 million deaths globally, last year.

Meanwhile, BBC also quoted Dr Pradeep Chowbey, the former president of International Federation for the Surgery of Obesity and Metabolic Disorders (Ifso) as warning that every extra 10kg of weight that a person carries reduces their life by three years.

In addition, being obese also impacted sexual health, led to poor self-image and lead to marital disharmony, he added.

So when was the last time you checked your BMI level?

Source: BBC
Photo source: Getty Images via BBC