Haroon Reshi

Experts say that consumption of junk food is hazardous to a healthy life style and is more injurious to the health of children

Health experts, across the globe, are unanimous that junk food consumption is one of the major issues that cause health hazards to people, particularly children, everywhere in the world – Kashmir being not an exception.

Earlier, Kashmiris used to follow their set traditions in every aspect of their lives and even their food habits would be unique and customary. However, like everything else, their food habits have changed to a large extent over the years. Unlike in the past, people in the Valley consume junk foods like anything, nowadays.

Eating pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, chowmein, samosas, chocolate (most of its varieties fall in the category of junk food), snacks (chips), and so on, along with soft drinks has become a new normal, mainly for children in the Valley.

Experts say that though the harmful effect of junk food on health is widely prevalent to all age groups; children and adolescents are more at risk. They say, junk foods, on one hand lack nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, and on the other hand contain excessive sugar, calories, and fats. Thus the food contributes to weight gain and obesity. Obesity eventually causes various health related issues to the people. Further, the mental health experts say that intake of junk food in large quantities and for quite a long time could affect the mental health of the individual.

What could be worse than the fact that poor eating habits – consuming junk food in a large quantity and on a daily basis – are considered normal in society? Most parents are even unaware of its harmful effects on their children. Sadly, the issue is neither debated in public domains nor finds any space in the newspapers.

To do our bit, KASHMIR IMAGES spoke with some experts to make them explain about the harmful effects of junk food on the health of people, particularly children.

Here are the excerpts:

Dr. Syed Wajid Ali
Pediatrician, Former Head of the Department of Pediatrics & Neonatology SKIMS

I frequently hear complaints from the parents that their children do not eat normal food, rather they are fond of junk food. This was not the case earlier – a decade or so ago.

Also, I see many of the children, brought to my clinic, grappling with obesity, and with the problem caused by the obesity. In some cases, parents complain that their children get less sleep. This might be because they consume cold drinks. Cold drinks contain caffeine, which causes sleep deprivation. We should be worried about all this. Our children are consuming sugar, excessive calories, and fat in a large quantity by way of junk food. This is harmful to them, and even it may cause problems to them in the later stages of their lives.

We must understand that junk food lacks proteins and vitamins, which are most important for health. Worst, consumption of junk food on daily basis causes suppression of brain functions, particularly an area of ​​the brain called the hippocampus. This part of the brain is related to memory. A recent study by an American journal has found that obese kids lack learning abilities when compared to fit children. The study found junk food causes poor cognitive abilities.

Therefore, I would say that children should not be allowed to take junk food. Parents have to play an important role to make sure that their children eat only healthy food. The health of a child should be a priority for every parent. Say, that’s junk food.

Dr. Beenish Zohra
Certified Diabetes Educator; IBS Dietitian; Clinical Nutritionist; Research Scholar

Junk food is hazardous to the human body and we know it as a long-established fact. When you allow your children to intake junk food at an early age, they tend to fall into the trap of its addiction. I have observed that some parents, seeing their children in a bad mood, aggressive, or throwing tantrums, immediately offer them junk food to make them ‘calm down’. This is a grave mistake. By giving junk food to children, parents unknowingly harm their health and make them habitual of this unhealthy food.

We must know that a child starts learning most of the things at an early age. The food habits too are picked up in the first few years of his / her age. They choose their food preferences at an early age and start developing their lifelong eating behaviours. Thus, parents must be more cautious about what they feed their children and they must ensure that their children do not fall into the trap of junk food, which has both short and long-term health hazards for them.

Parents should choose food preferences for their children wisely. If you ask me, I would say the toddlers should be given dahlia, bananas, salad, grapes, homemade bite-sized pancakes, roti (mix wheat flour) dipped in a cup of milk, or tea, and so on. These things should be given to a child as per the requirement.

Similarly, adolescents should be provided only healthy food. Since their body is growing and their muscles are getting developed, they require more proteins. For them, a proper nourished diet could be vegetables, fruits, dairy, and so forth. It is important that children of all age groups need to be nourished with a healthy diet so that they attain a fit and fine body, and acquire everlasting healthy diet choices.

I feel happy when sometimes parents consult me ​​to seek advice for food preferences of their children. And, I never forget to advise them that they themselves need to inculcate healthy food habits so that children are easily motivated to avoid junk food. The onus always lies on parents to teach the children what to eat and what not to.

Prof. Farhat Jabeen
Former HoD Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Government Medical College (GMC), Srinagar

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) disease is widespread in many parts of the world. For some time, we have been observing sudden rise of this disease in Kashmir as well.

However, we do not know much about the actual causes of the problem. There are multiple theories about it. Experts, worldwide, link it with several reasons such as genetics, stress, metabolism, food habits, and so on. Obesity is also considered as one of the reasons for PCOS. Since obesity is mostly related to food habits, thus it is advised that girls should avoid junk food.

But, I would say, whether male or female child, junk food is harmful to everyone. Junk food causes obesity, and obesity is the mother of so many diseases. It causes metabolic disorders, hormonal imbalances, and so forth.

Unfortunately, in Kashmir, we have already been grappling with so many problems. The prevailing situation over the years has led most people to stress. Stress usually leads to overeating, and overeating to obesity. Obesity is common in our society, and even children are affected by it. On the other hand, the present generation of children are less active. They mostly remain busy with gadgets. Thus, the consumption of junk food is like adding fuel to the fire. I would suggest, parents must ensure children, whether boys or girls, take only healthy food and have an active lifestyle. That is the key to good health.

Wasim Kakroo
Child and adolescent mental health therapist; Consultant Clinical Psychologist

Junk food is tasty. Its ingredients and chemicals make it tasty. It gives a quick pleasure to one who eats it because the taste of food enables the brain to release dopamine. And, we know as a matter of fact that usually, an individual gets habitual of anything that triggers dopamine in his or her brain. It is an established fact that people take drugs just because it releases dopamine in their brains. People fall prey to drugs only because they get momentarily pleasure from it, and eventually, they become addicted to it. Same is the case with junk food. Due to its taste, consumers mostly become addicted to it.

Unfortunately, children are more vulnerable to fall into the trap of junk food addiction. And, the children and adolescents who are not emotionally that stable, fall easily prey to the junk food obsession. It has been also observed that the girls are more addicted to junk food because they mostly are not emotionally stable due to certain reasons like their hormonal cycles and so forth. Many of them, under the influence of stress, turn to junk food. They take it as a coping mechanism to deal with the stress and eventually become addicted to it.

The advertisement of junk foods plays a vital role to ensure children and adolescents fall into the trap. The food industry spends millions of rupees on advertisements to allure young minds. Kids find these advertisements popping up while they are watching their favorite programs on TV or phone.

Dr. Suhail Naik
Senior pediatrician at the department of pediatrics GMC, Srinagar

In the evolution process, all species on earth including humans have learned what to eat and what not to. That is why we find eating habits are mostly inherent. A tiger eats only meat and an elephant eats a wide variety of plants and fruits. They never interchange their food habits, because the food tendencies are inherent.

Similarly, the evolution of thousands of years has taught humans what to eat and what not to; and in what quantity to eat. That is why humans, no matter in which part of the planet they are, equally understand that they need to take breakfast, lunch, supper, dinner, and so on. It is not any science or any literature that has taught humans to choose their eating preferences. They knew it already. They have inculcated the process of eating and inherent their food tendencies. The biological clock of the human body is developed over hundreds of thousands of years.

Now coming to the topic: Junk food has selling power because of its taste. People intake junk food because they find it tasty. The taste of the food leads them to take it in much quantity. And, consuming junk food beyond a limit makes it problematic for a human body.

Since junk food contains excessive calories, extra fat, and chemicals; it makes fat accumulate in the human body, which causes obesity. Once a person, whether an adult or a child is obese, he or she tends to fall prey to the ailments such as debates, hypertension, renal disease, joint pain, and even in some cases heart attacks and brain strokes.

A human body, whether of a grown-up person or a child, requires calculated energies and daily exercises to remain healthy. Only a healthy diet, that too in a gauged quantity can ensure calculated energies to a body. The excessive energies found in junk food get converted into fat.

The way junk food is prepared makes it harmful and unhygienic. When we look at its preparatory process, we find that it is usually made on used and reused oil. The same oil is used innumerable times. And, in this process, the properties in the oil get changed for the worst.

Briefly, I would say junk food is extremely harmful and more harmful to children. We are already eating a lot of harmful diets in terms of chemical baked food. Chemical is used in chicken feed to improve egg production. Pesticide is used to raise agriculture production. Organic food is rarely available now. To understand this, just check out at Amazon and you will find an organic egg costs 54 rupees. Clearly, everyone can not afford organic and pure food all the time. But, we should at least ensure that our children do not take poisonous junk food.


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