Skip to main content

The overfat pandemic in India

By April 10, 2018July 22nd, 2020Health
Paradox In India

Researchers say ‘nutrition transition’ to high-sugar diet is wreaking havoc on health in a country where many are hungry.

The South Asian country of India often conjures up images of famine, hunger and starving children, but new research has found up to 80 percent of adults and over 40 percent of children are actually overfat.

The term overfat is defined as having enough excess body fat to impair one’s health. The study published in the journal Global Epidemic Obesity links the problem to increased sugar consumption.

Researchers Philip Maffetone and Mihira Khopkar combined recent data for overweight, obese and those with abdominal obesity to uncover the surprising results.

Up to 80 percent of Indian adults and 41 percent of children have excess body fat that can contribute to chronic disease.


“Alongside the serious problem of hunger, the nutrition transition has created an overfat pandemic that feeds the current explosion of chronic disease and physical impairment,” Maffetone said.

Previous studies of the overfat pandemic by Maffetone and others have explored the incidence of the overfat condition worldwide, in developed countries and in the United States. Globally, it is estimated only 14 percent of the population has normal body fat levels.

The problem of excess body fat is found in most overweight and obese individuals, but also in many who are normal-weight but have excess abdominal fat. This overfat condition is associated with at least one additional risk factor of impaired cardiovascular, metabolic or physical health, researchers say.

Maffetone noted that one unique finding of the study is the significant rate of abdominal overfat — excess belly fat that is a more serious contributor to disease than other fat stores — even in otherwise normal-weight, non-obese individuals.

“The decades-long donations of very high-sugar subsidies from the United Nations and other Western countries may have played a key role in this pandemic,” Maffetone said.

“While millions of Indian farmers grow healthy traditional foods, the Westernization of India’s population often chooses highly processed sugar-rich foods that directly lead to increasing levels of excess body fat, particularly in the abdominal areas.”

The health consequences of being overfat are widely known. The condition is linked to various disease risks, such as abnormal cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar, and hypertension, which can trigger chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart and Alzheimer’s disease.


The full text of the research study can be found here: