Institute for Social and Economic Change
Working Paper: 285
Double Burden of Malnutrition in India: An Investigation
T S Syamala
In the context of the existing nutrition transition, this paper analyses the National Family Health Survey data to assess the possible existence of the double burden of malnutrition, that is, the simultaneous existence of underweight and overweight problems in Indian society. The results show that in India, the underweight problem seems to cut across all social and economic categories, whereas, the overweight/obesity problem seems to be more of a problem of wealthier, urban women. The paper also throws light on the evidence of the changing face of malnutrition in India, the likely shift in Indian society from the customary problems pertaining to energy deficiency to the problems of overweight/obesity. The likelihood of the simultaneous existence of underweight and overweight problems is also evident in Indian society especially among the urban well-to-do people. In states like Delhi, Punjab and Kerala the public health measures should pay greater attention to overweight problems and in the near future a few other states like Tamil Nadu and Jammu and Kashmir are going to join this group where the overweight problem will cause greater concerns than the problem of underweight in respect of both the urban and rural areas. The co-existence of underweight and overweight problems in the above mentioned three states is not only restricted to the urban richer sections but also trickled down to the poor, uneducated and rural people. Hence, the research on nutrition issues in India has to focus on the paradoxical co-existence of underweight and overweight problems among women and recommend appropriate policies to tackle this emerging issue.