Thursday May 23, 2019

Obesity Increasing More Quickly in Rural Areas than in Cities Worldwide: Study

City-dwelling women and men, however, put on 38 and 24 percent less, respectively, than their rural counterparts over the same period, according to the findings, published in Nature

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FILE - A man crosses a main road as pedestrians carrying food walk along the footpath in central Sydney, Australia. VOA

Obesity worldwide is increasing more quickly in rural areas than in cities, a study reported Wednesday, challenging a long-held assumption that the global epidemic of excess weight is mainly an urban problem.

Data covering 200 countries and territories compiled by more than 1,000 researchers showed an average gain of roughly five to six kilos per woman and man living in the countryside from 1985 to 2017.

City-dwelling women and men, however, put on 38 and 24 percent less, respectively, than their rural counterparts over the same period, according to the findings, published in Nature. “The results of this massive global study overturn commonly held perceptions that more people living in cities is the main cause of the global rise in obesity,” said senior author Majid Ezzati, a professor at Imperial College London’s School of Public Health.

“This means that we need to rethink how we tackle this global health problem.” The main exception to the trend was sub-Saharan Africa, where women gained weight more rapidly in cities. Obesity has emerged as a global health epidemic, driving rising rates of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and a host of cancers.

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Two women converse in New York, June 26, 2012. The nation’s obesity epidemic continues to grow, led by an alarming increase among women. Obesity is one of the risk factors of heart failure. VOA

The annual cost of treating related health impacts could top a trillion dollars by 2025, the World Obesity Federation estimated in 2017. To date, most national and international policies to curb excess body weight have focused on cities, including public messaging, the redesign of urban spaces to encourage walking, and subsidized sports facilities.

Body-mass index

To factor health status into the comparison across nations, the researchers used a standard measure known as the “body-mass index”, or BMI, based on height and weight. A person with a BMI of 25 or more is considered overweight, while 30 or higher is obese. A healthy BMI ranges from 18.5 to 24.9.

Approximately two billion adults in the world are overweight, nearly a third of them obese. The number of obese people has tripled since 1975. The study revealed important differences between countries depending on income level.

In high-income nations, for example, the study found that rural BMI were generally already higher in 1985, especially for women. Lower income and education levels, the high cost and limited availability of healthy foods, dependence on vehicles, the phasing out of manual labour — all of these factors likely contributed to progressive weight gain.

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The populations — both men and women — in small South Pacific island nations have among the highest BMI levels in the world, often well above 30. Pixabay

Conversely, urban areas “provide a wealth of opportunities for better nutrition, more physical exercise and recreation, and overall improved health,” Ezzati said. Around 55 percent of the world’s population live in cities or satellite communities, with that figure set to rise to 68 percent by mid-century, according to the United Nations.

‘Ultra-processed foods’

The most urbanized regions in the world are North America (82 percent), Latin America and the Caribbean (81 percent) and Europe (74 percent). More recently, the proportion of overweight and obese adults in the rural parts of many low- and middle-income countries is also rising more quickly than in cites.

“Rural areas in these countries have begun to resemble urban areas,” Barry Popkin, an expert on global public health at the University of North Carolina, said in a comment, also in Nature. “Modern food supply is now available in combination with cheap mechanized devices for farming and transport,” he added. “Ultra-processed foods are also becoming part of the diets of poor people.”

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“The NDC Risk Factor Collaboration challenges us to create programmes and policies that are rurally focused to prevent weight gain”, Popkin said. VOA

At a country level, several findings stand out. Some of the largest BMI increases from 1985 to 2017 among men were in China, the United States, Bahrain, Peru and the Dominican Republic, adding an average of 8-9 kilos per adult.

ALSO READ: Media Multitasking Can Be Associated With Risk of Obesity

Women in Egypt and Honduras added — on average, across urban and rural areas — even more. Rural women in Bangladesh, and men living in rural Ethiopia, had the lowest average BMI in 1985, at 17.7 and 18.4 respectively, just under the threshold of healthy weight. Both cohorts were well above that threshold by 2017.

The populations — both men and women — in small South Pacific island nations have among the highest BMI levels in the world, often well above 30. “The NDC Risk Factor Collaboration challenges us to create programmes and policies that are rurally focused to prevent weight gain”, Popkin said. (VOA)

Next Story

Walking, Cycling Reduce Obesity Risk in Kids: Study

For the study, the researchers included over 2,000 primary school children

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Walking
Walk your way to good health.

Do your children go to school walking or riding a bicycle? If your anser is in affirmative, then they are less likely to be obese than those who use car or public transport, suggests a new study.

The study’s findings suggested children who actively commuted to school had lower body fat and were less likely to be overweight or obese.

In the study, published in the BMC Public Health journal, the researchers assessed the impact of extra-curricular physical activities — daily commuting to school and participation in sports — on overweight and obesity levels among primary school children.

The researchers observed that physical activity was better predictor of obesity level in children than commonly-used body-mass index (BMI) as it looked at total weight, including “healthy” muscle mass, rather than fat mass alone.

“Both BMI itself and the points at which high BMI is associated with poor health vary with age, sex and ethnicity,” said the study’s first author Lander Bosch, a Ph.D scholar at University of Cambridge.

“While adjustments have been made in recent years to account for these variations, BMI remains a flawed way to measure the health risks associated with obesity,” Bosch said.

CyclingStress, meditation, PTSD
Cycling, walking in nature may also improve your mental health. Pixabay

For the study, the researchers included over 2,000 primary school children.

Likewise, the researchers also used BMI to check obesity risk in children. Surprisingly, children who participated in sports daily appeared more likely to be overweight compared with those who engaged in sports less than once a week.

Also Read- Drinking Coffee Improves Bowel Movement, Find Researchers

“The link between frequent participation in sport and obesity levels has generated inconsistent findings in previous research, but many of these studies were looking at BMI only,” asserted Bosch.

“However, when looking at body fat instead, we showed there was a trend whereby children who were not active were more likely to be overweight or obese. It’s likely that when looking at the BMI, some inactive children aren’t classified as obese due to reduced muscle mass,” he noted.

The researchers maintained that active commuting to school could be “promising” for combating childhood obesity. “It’s something so easy to implement and it makes such a big difference,” said Bosch. (IANS)