New Delhi: Unhealthy eating habits and obesity in Delhi are linked to the density of full-service and fast-food restaurants in the city, new research shows.

And the most common outlets are Indian restaurants (57.2%) and Indian sweet shops (25.8%) in the national capital, the research, by All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in association with Public Health Foundation of India, Jamia Milia Islamia, Emory University and Boston University, shows. The research covered 5,364 adults in the city.

To be sure, this is not to suggest that the food served in Western fast food outlets is healthy. “Westernization of the food system, often considered an indicator of the nutrition transition, may not be the only culprit for obesity in Delhi. But Indian food chains are also serving even more unhealthy food," said AIIMS’s Dr Nikhil Tandon.

According to the study, people staying within a 1km radius of fast food joints are more likely to have unhealthy eating habits.

“Full service and fast food restaurant density in the residential area of adults surveyed in Delhi, was associated with poor dietary intake," added Dr Tandon. The areas where the density of these outlets are the highest had households with higher incomes, and whose residents were more educated, with white-collar jobs.

The study surveyed 15 food groups and evaluated dietary intake using a 26-item food propensity questionnaire in over 134 parts of the city.

“This study shows that Indian calorie-dense diets, packaged in attractive manner at relatively low cost and delivered within short time to homes become a habit, especially in young people," said Dr Anoop Misra, chairman, National Diabetes, Obesity and Cholesterol Foundation.

Unhealthy diets, sedentary lifestyles, overweight and obesity are among the leading risk factors for cardio-vascular diseases (CVD), which are becoming increasingly common in India. They account for one-fourth of deaths in India and, along with diabetes, are expected to cost India $2.32 trillion from 2012 to 2030 (including both direct costs of treatment and indirect costs of lost labour supply and productivity due to mortality).

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