Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 6th 2014 Contents A28
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, January 6, 2014
The number of overweight and
obese adults in the developing world
has almost quadrupled to around one
billion since 1980, says a report from
a UK think tank.
The Overseas Development Institute
said one in three people worldwide was
now overweight and urged governments
to do more to influence diets.
In the UK, 64 per cent of adults are
classed as being overweight or obese.
The report predicts a "huge increase"
in heart attacks, strokes and diabetes.
Globally, the percentage of adults
who were overweight or obese, classed
as having a body mass index greater
than 25, grew from 23 per cent to 34
per cent between 1980 and 2008.
The majority of this increase was
seen in the developing world, partic-
ularly in countries where incomes were
rising, such as Egypt and Mexico.
The ODI s Future Diets report says
this is due to changing diets and a shift
from eating cereals and grains to the
consumption of more fats, sugar, oils
and animal produce.
A total of 904 million people in
developing countries are now classed
as overweight or above, with a BMI of
more than 25, up from 250 million in
This compares to 557 million in high-
income countries. Over the same peri-
od, the global population nearly dou-
At the same time, however, under-
nourishment is still recognised to be a
problem for hundreds of millions of
people in the developing world, par-
Using data published in Population
Health Metrics last year, the researchers
looked at changing overweight and
obesity rates across the regions of the
world and by individual country.
The regions of North Africa, the Mid-
dle East and Latin America saw large
increases in overweight and obesity
rates to a level on a par with Europe,
around 58 per cent.
While North America still has the
highest percentage of overweight adults
at 70 per cent, regions such as Aus-
tralasia and southern Latin America
are now not far behind with 63 per
The greatest growth in overweight
people occurred in south east Asia,
where the percentage tripled from a
lower starting point of seven per cent
to 22 per cent.
Among individual countries, the
report found that overweight and obe-
sity rates had almost doubled in China
and Mexico, and risen by a third in
South Africa since 1980. Many coun-
tries in the Middle East also had a high
percentage of overweight adults.
One of the report authors, Steve Wig-
gins, said there were likely to be multiple
reasons for the increases.
"People with higher incomes have
the ability to choose the kind of foods
they want. Changes in lifestyle, the
increasing availability of processed
foods, advertising, media influences...
have all led to dietary changes."
He said this was particularly the case
in emerging economies, where a large
middle class of people with rising
incomes was living in urban centres
and not taking much physical exercise.
The result, he says, is "an explosion
in overweight and obesity in the past
30 years" which could lead to serious
This is because consumption of fat,
salt and sugar, which has increased
globally according to the United
Nations, is a significant factor in car-
diovascular disease, diabetes and some
The world s top sugar consumers
include the United States, Belgium, the
Netherlands, New Zealand, Costa Rica,
To combat the rising tide of obesity,
Wiggins recommends more concerted
public health measures from govern-
ments, similar to those taken to limit
smoking in developed countries.
What makes South Korean food so
He said: "Politicians need to be less
shy about trying to influence what food
ends up on our plates.
"The challenge is to make healthy
diets viable whilst reducing the appeal
of foods which carry a less certain nutri-
The report cites the example of South
Korea where efforts to preserve the
country s traditional diet have included
public campaigns and large-scale meal
preparation training for women.
Alan Dangour, a reader in food and
nutritional global health at the London
School of Hygiene and Tropical Med-
icine, said urbanisation in many parts
of the world had changed people s eat-
ing habits away from traditional, healthy
But he said obesity and under-nutri-
tion often existed side by side, some-
times in the same household.
"We need to act urgently to deal with
the scandal of millions of cases of
extreme hunger and under-nutrition
in children, but we also need to think
what happens if we provide lots of extra
calories, containing few vitamins, and
encourage excess consumption.
"Clever, joined-up policies are need-
A spokesperson from the Department
YOUR DAILY HEALTH
News and Advice
of Health said they recognised that
high rates of obesity caused dangerous
health conditions and were taking
"We are already taking the lead in
helping tackle and prevent this chal-
lenge, including through the govern-
ment s Responsibility Deal with indus-
try, NHS Health Checks, the National
Child Measurement Programme in
schools and through Change4Life.
"For the first time ever, we ve given
local authorities ring-fenced budgets
to tackle public health issues in their
local area, including obesity."
The Department of Health also said
that industry and health professionals
had a role to play in helping people
improve their diet and lifestyles.
Obesity quadruples to nearly
one billion in developing world
Changes in lifestyle, the increasing availability of processed
foods, advertising... have all led to dietary changes.
---Steve Wiggins, Overseas Development Institute
adults who were
obese, classed as
having a body
mass index greater
than 25, grew from
23 per cent to 34
per cent between
1980 and 2008.
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