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BRIEF RESEARCH ARTICLE
Year : 2018  |  Volume : 62  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 65-67  

Consumption of junk foods by school-aged children in rural Himachal Pradesh, India


1 Research Scientist, Department of Human Nutrition, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India
2 Professor, Department of Human Nutrition, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India
3 PhD Scholar, Department of Human Nutrition, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, India

Date of Web Publication6-Mar-2018

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Umesh Kapil
All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi - 110 029
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/ijph.IJPH_343_16

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   Abstract 


There has been an increase in the consumption of junk food (JF) among school-aged children (SAC) possibly leading to obesity and diet-related diseases among them. We do not have evidence on consumption of JF in rural areas; hence, we conducted a study to assess the consumption of JF by SAC in rural, Himachal Pradesh. A total of 425 children in the age group of 12–18 years studying in 30 government schools (clusters) were included. The clusters were selected using population proportionate to size sampling methodology. We found high prevalence (36%) of consumption of JF among SAC during the last 24 h. Efforts should be taken to reduce the consumption of JF by promotion of healthy dietary habits and educating children about the ill effects of JF.

Keywords: Junk food, ready to eat foods, school-aged children, unhealthy diet


How to cite this article:
Gupta A, Kapil U, Singh G. Consumption of junk foods by school-aged children in rural Himachal Pradesh, India. Indian J Public Health 2018;62:65-7

How to cite this URL:
Gupta A, Kapil U, Singh G. Consumption of junk foods by school-aged children in rural Himachal Pradesh, India. Indian J Public Health [serial online] 2018 [cited 2019 Aug 18];62:65-7. Available from: http://www.ijph.in/text.asp?2018/62/1/65/226618



With changes in lifestyle, there has been an increase in the consumption of junk foods (JF) among school-aged children (SAC).[1] High consumption of JF has been identified to have a contributory role in the increasing trend of overweight in India among SAC from 9.7% to 13.9% over a decade (2001-2010).[2] High consumption of JF has also been associated with increased risk of early development of diet-related noncommunicable diseases, including hypertension, dyslipidemia, impaired glucose tolerance, metabolic syndrome, musculoskeletal disorders, and cancers, indicating burgeoning health concerns in the near future for SAC.[1],[3]

JF are classified as food products which are high in salt, sugar, fats and energy (calories) and contain little or no proteins, vitamins, or minerals.[4] The foods such as chips, soft drinks, ice creams, bakery products, chocolates, sweets, and fried foods have been categorized as JF.[4] The terms fast foods and JFs are often used interchangeably. Most JFs are fast foods as they are prepared and served fast. However, not all fast foods are JFs, especially when they are prepared with nutritious contents, for example, momos, idli, and dosa.

India is experiencing “nutrition transition” characterized by increasing consumption of JF and a growing number of meals purchased and/or consumed away from home.[4],[5] High fat and sugary products being addictive in nature attract children over healthy foods. The ready availability, taste, low cost, commercial marketing strategies, and peer pressure makes JF popular with children and adolescents.[5] Hence, the high prevalence of JF consumption has been observed in both urban and rural areas due to easy accessibility and rising incomes of the family.[2],[4],[5]

There was a lack of scientific data on consumption of JF in rural areas among SAC in India. Hence, we conducted a study on the prevalence of consumption of JF among SAC living in district Kullu, Himachal Pradesh. These findings were observed during the main study which was conducted on the prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency published earlier.[6]

A community-based cross-sectional study was conducted during 2014–2015 in district Kullu, Himachal Pradesh. A total of 425 children in the age group of 12–18 years studying in government schools were included. Since the school enrollment was more than 90% (as per the secondary data available with the Department of Education, Himachal Pradesh),[7] the children studying in the school were considered as a proxy for children residing in the area. Thirty clusters were identified using population proportionate to size sampling method. All children in the age group of 12–18 years were enlisted. A minimum of 12 children were selected from each cluster (school) with the help of random number tables. The study was approved by ethical committee of All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. The written consent was obtained from the parents of each child before data collection.

A pretested structured questionnaire was administered orally to each child to obtain information on sociodemographic profile, parent’s education, income, and occupation. Assessment of socioeconomic status (SES) was done using BG Prasad socioeconomic scale.[8] The consumption pattern of JF was assessed with the help of orally administered 1 day 24 h dietary recall method.[9]

We calculated the sample size keeping in view the anticipated prevalence of consumption of JF as 20%, a confidence level of 95%, and absolute precision of 5.0 and a design effect of 1.5. A total sample size of 369 was calculated. However, we included 425 children in the present study.

A total of 425 children (208 males; 217 females) in the age group of 12–18 years were included. Children who did not give consent or were suffering from any systemic illness were excluded from the study. The mean age of the individuals enrolled was 14.9 ± 2.0 years (male) and 14.8 ± 1.9 years (female), respectively. According to the SES, 32 (8%), 219 (51%), and 173 (41%) individuals belonged to lower (Rs. ≤951 per month), middle (Rs. 952–3172 per month), and high SES (Rs. 3173–>6346 per month), respectively.

In this study, we found that 153 (36%) of SAC consumed JF in rural areas of Himachal Pradesh during the last 24 h. Out of the total children who consumed JF items (n = 153), 44% (n = 68) were males and 56% (n = 85) were females. There was no statistical difference in the consumption of JF between the two sexes (P = 0.052).

According to the SES, JF consumption was higher in high SES (48%) and middle (45%) and least in low SES (6%). High cost of energy-dense diets makes these food items popular among SAC belonging to high- and middle-income groups.

The consumption pattern of individual JF item is given in [Table 1].
Table 1: Sex-wise distribution of consumption pattern of junk foods by children

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We found that the most popular JF item was chips (71%) followed by chocolate (14%), bakery products (13%), soft drinks (7%), and sugar-sweetened beverages (5%). We found that majority (78%) of the children consumed one JF item in the last 24 h. However, 22% (n = 33) children were consuming 2 or more JF items in the last 24 h of the survey. We observed that the JF was consumed mainly as snacks from shops outside the school during evening time after the end of school. There were no school canteens in the school premises.

A study conducted in Baroda reported higher consumption of JF items (56%) such as chocolates, pastries and sweets and soft drinks (39%) by SAC in the last 24 h.[10] Another study conducted in Lucknow reported daily consumption of JF items such as chocolate, bakery items, and ice cream by 28%, 14%, and 35% of SAC, respectively.[11] Soft drink consumption was reported daily among 30% SAC and once in 2 days among 70% of SAC residing in a study conducted in New Delhi.[12]

We found that JF contributed to 221±139 Kcal (range: 60-796 Kcal) calories and 10±7 g (range: 1-42g) fat in the diet. Percentage contribution of JF to the calorie and fat content of the diet was found to be 9.2% and 20.9%, respectively. Proportion of calories contributed by JF in 15% children was in the range of 20-49%. Similarly, in 35% children junk food contributed to more than 30% of total fat consumed in the diet. Soft drinks and sugar sweetened beverages contributed to 124±34 Kcal of energy intake in children.

High consumption of fried foods and sugary drinks has been observed to be significantly associated with high body mass index and weight status in children.[13],[14] In addition, diets with high amounts of JF have overall low quantity of nutrients.[13],[14] Hence, high consumption of JF can contribute to the “double burden of malnutrition,” undernutrition, and overnutrition occurring simultaneously within the Indian population.[4]

The present study is possibly the first study which has documented the consumption of JF in rural areas of Himachal Pradesh, India. Earlier studies have been conducted in urban areas specifically on consumption of fast food items which have different characteristics as compared to JFs.[2],[10],[11],[12],[13] However, there were few limitations of the study: (1) the study has been developed from the main study which was conducted for estimation of prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency in Himachal Pradesh (2) the children reported the data for SES, which may not have been reported correctly.

In conclusion, we found high (36%) prevalence of consumption of JF among SAC in rural areas of Himachal Pradesh India. Although there is high awareness regarding the ill effects of JF, selection of foods is mainly taste driven rather than based on the nutritional content.[13],[15] Hence, there is need to initiate nutrition interventions to reduce the high intake of JF by educating the SAC and teachers regarding the possible deteriorating health consequences of JF with external support of researchers and public health educators. This may help in inculcating the practice of consumption of healthy foods from a young age. The formation of laws to regulate the marketing and advertising of JF in and around school premises may be helpful in reducing the consumption of JF among children.

Acknowledgment

We are extremely grateful to Department of Biotechnology, Government of India for providing us the financial grant for conducting this study.

Financial support and sponsorship

The project was funded by Department of Biotechnology, Government of India (vide letter no: BT/PR6701/FNS/20/674/2012).

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
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