And the realization of how bad junk food can be
was apparent from the numbers that thronged the Delhi Quarterathon, a run for
‘junking junk food’ organized by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). Film
actor Rahul Bose, politician Sandeep Dikshit, and a host of students, their
teachers and parents participated in the event.
Contemporary dance guru Shiamak Davar, who
supported the run and the cause behind it, said: “The initiative taken
by CSE is very close to my work with dance education. The idea is to
inculcate healthy and positive behaviour amongst school students. The
Quarterathon is such an exciting way to create awareness on the
endeavour and I extend my support to the organization that ensures
passing on the right message to the youth.”
Junk food and the CSE study
Most junk food falls into the categories
of either ‘snack food’ or ‘fast food’. Burgers, French fries, pizzas,
colas and energy drinks are some of the more popular Western junk food.
Samosas, kachoris, bread pakodas, packaged bhujia, instant noodles,
momos, tikkis and bhaturas top the list of Indian junk food.
In March 2012, CSE had tested 16 major
brands of junk foods, and found most of them loaded with high levels of
trans fats, salts and sugar. While excess salts and sugar are a cause
for concern, the real terror is in the trans fats. The WHO says that in
a balanced diet, a maximum of 1 per cent of total energy should come
from trans fats. Therefore, an adult male can have 2.6 gram of trans
fats per day, while an adult female can have 2.1 gram and a child (10-12
years) can have 2.3 gram.
CSE’s tests revealed a dirty truth of
misinformation, misbranding, wrong labelling and obfuscation indulged in
by companies, some of whom are on the top of the charts. They show that
many junk foods claim they have ‘0’ trans fats; some don’t even bother
to mention how much trans fats they have. A child who eats one of those
immensely savoury MacDonald’s Happy Meals finishes up 90 per cent of all
his daily requirement of trans fats. The packet of Happy Meal makes
absolutely no mention of this massive dosage of trans fats!
CSE researchers say that the heavy doses
of trans fats, joined with that of salt – which comes from all the so
called ‘fun foods’ -- work together to trigger ill health which can lead
to death. Trans fats are notorious for clogging arteries: they deposit
on the walls of the arteries and make them narrower. On top of that,
when one has large amounts of salt, the blood pressure increases. The
heart has to work overtime to push the blood around, which weakens it
There is enough global evidence to suggest
that more and more young people are succumbing to problems of the heart
at a much earlier age. At an age when they should have been at their
productive best, they are losing productive life by eating this junk.
‘Junk’ junk food
CSE has taken a strong stand against all
that is junk in food. ‘Junk food should be banned in schools, as the
first step to push school authorities towards healthier and more
nutritious options for our children,’ said Sunita Narain, Director
General of CSE and one of the participants in the Quarterathon.
This is why Narain and her colleagues made
a special effort to involve schools and their students in this
initiative of junking junk food.
CSE also recommended
banning advertisements for junk food during children’s shows, and on