Friday December 13, 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

Watching TV Increases Risk of Obesity among Kids: Study

TV watching most strongly linked to obesity in kids

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Identifying habits linked to overweight and obesity in the early stages of life can help us to define preventive strategies against other conditions. Pixabay

Parents, please take note. Among the lifestyle habits that influence the risk of overweight and obesity in children, watching television is the worst, suggests new research.

“Identifying habits linked to overweight and obesity in the early stages of life can help us to define preventive strategies against other conditions, such as cardiovascular and metabolic diseases during adulthood,” said lead author of the study Rowaedh Bawaked, researcher at the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute in Spain.

The researchers analysed five lifestyle habits: physical activity, sleep time, television time, plant-based food consumption and ultra-processed food consumption.

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Researchers found that watching tv has serious effects such as obesity. Pixabay

The study, published in the journal Pediatric Obesity, was based on data from 1,480 children.

Parents were asked to complete various questionnaires on the children’s lifestyle habits at four years of age.

To calculate the health impact of these habits, the researchers measured the children’s body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and blood pressure at four and seven years of age.

Children who were less active and spent more time in front of the television at four years of age were at greater risk of being affected by overweight, obesity and metabolic syndrome at seven years of age, showed the findings.

The researchers also measured the time spent by the children on other sedentary activities, such as reading, drawing and doing puzzles. However, these activities did not appear to be associated with overweight or obesity.

“When children watch TV, they see a huge number of advertisements for unhealthy food,” said co-leader of the study Dora Romaguera from Barcelona Institute for Global Health in Spain.

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Another reason why watching tv leads to obesity is that the commercials of junk food attracts kids. Pixabay

“This may encourage them to consume these products,” Romaguera said.

Ultra-processed foods, such as pastries, sweet beverages and refined-grain products, are high in sugar, salt and saturated fat and low in nutritional value.

The study showed that high intake of these products at four years of age was associated with a higher BMI at seven years of age.

Moreover, television viewing “discourages physical activity and interrupts sleep time”, explained Silvia Fernandez, a post-doctoral researcher at Barcelona Institute for Global Health.

As the researchers noted, adequate sleep time in early childhood is essential for weight control later in childhood.

Also Read- Instagram Helps Women to Overcome Miscarriage Distress: Study

The study concluded that adult health depends on the establishment of healthy lifestyle habits during childhood: limited television time, extracurricular physical activity, getting enough hours of sleep, eating lots of vegetables and avoiding ultra-processed foods. (IANS)