Crash dieting puts Mumbai women at TB risk

Doctors say while a couple of years ago, dieting was not common, every second woman now aspires to have a model-like body. They explained that in a crowded city like Mumbai where majority of the population has latent TB, the infection flares up when immunity gets compromised

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The pursuit of getting a perfect figure by following crash diet is proving to be costly for young women in Mumbai as chest physicians are seeing rising number of tuberculosis infection cases in such women.

While speaking to My Medical Mantra, doctors said the problem is common in the age group of 18 to 25.

“It is a city phenomenon where a woman is getting TB infection because of a weight loss fad. These women opt for crash diet, which exposes them to the disease. The bacilli attacks when a person’s immunity is low,” said Dr Mandar Kubal, Infectious Diseases and Pulmonary Care, Chembur.

Doctors say while a couple of years ago, dieting was not common, now every other woman aspires to have a model-like body. They explained that in a crowded city like Mumbai where majority of the population has latent TB, the infection flares up when immunity is compromised.

“To get a slim and fit figure, young girls tend to skip meals and starve themselves. Dieting for a long period weakens a person’s immunity, thus making her / him prone to an illness like TB,” said Dr Jalil Parker, Chest Physician at Lilavati Hospital, who has got many such cases.

Health experts say there is a need to create awareness on how to lose weight in a healthy way.

“These women generally come with complaints of constant cough, low grade fever and weight loss, along with low appetite. They tend to take the symptoms lightly. Most of them first go to a family physician where they do not respond to the treatment and are then referred to us. These women are mostly in denial after X-ray and other medical reports confirm their TB status,” said Dr Parker.

Dr Lancelot Pinto, Chest Physician at PD Hinduja Hospital, said the link between dieting and tuberculosis is not proven, but is an observation made by clinicians.

Stress and dieting are commonly observed in young women when we ask them their medical history. I have treated many young women with drug resistant form of TB. One needs to understand the importance of having a robust immunity,” said Pinto.

Dr Om Srivastava, an Infectious Disease Consultant said, “There is a clear association between nutritional status of the person and tuberculosis. The total amount of protein and albumin intake determines our immune system. Having only junk food and dieting skews up nutritional level and chances of getting multiple infections, along with tuberculosis, becomes higher than others.”