Campaigners warn against junk food use on World Obesity Day 

Staff Reporter 08:47 PM, 3 Mar, 2024
Campaigners warn against junk food use on World Obesity Day 
Source: Credit: Getty Images

KARACHI: On World Obesity Day, Pakistan's health campaigners and medical professionals express concern over growing obesity rate in the country and warn against excessive use of trans-fatty acids (iTFAs), which are causing serious health issues including cardiovascular diseases.

Recent research has pointed out correlation between Pakistan's escalating obesity rates and the widespread consumption of foods high in iTFAs commonly found in processed foods, fast food, snacks, and cooking oils.

Since its launch last year, the TRANSFORM Pakistan campaign has been at the forefront of efforts to regulate iTFAs, aiming to promote a healthier dietary habits.

Afshar Iqbal, Director of Communications and Advocacy at Pakistan Youth Change Advocates (PYCA), quotes from the World Health Organization data showing that 58.1pc of Pakistanis are overweight, with 43.9pc falling into the obese category, with an estimated annual cost of managing obesity reaching Rs428 billion in 2015.

Dr. Saba Amjad, CEO of Heartfile, stresses the importance of addressing the root causes of obesity, linking the rising obesity rates to the prevalence of industrially produced iTFAs in Pakistani diet.

Munawar Hussain, the In-country Coordinator of the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI), warns that these harmful substances have been associated with various health issues, including obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and metabolic disorders.

Mukhtar Ahmed, Executive Director of the Center for Peace and Development Initiative (CPDI), underscores the need to implement a government-mandated regulatory framework to curb iTFAs in food items.

The Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations & Coordination (MoNHR&C), a key supporter of the TRANSFORM Pakistan campaign, has actively engaged stakeholders to ensure the implementation of mandatory standards.

Dr. Khawaja Masuood Ahmed, National Coordinator, Nutrition & National Fortification Alliance at MoNHSR&C, says that in 2023, Pakistan successfully regulated iTFA content in several dietary sources. However, notable food items such as ultra-processed items, dairy products, and street food remain beyond the regulation's scope.

The TRANSFORM Pakistan campaign calls for action from individuals, communities, and policymakers to regulate iTFAs in Pakistani diets, aiming to reduce the impact of non-communicable diseases and obesity on public health indicators.