Monday October 21, 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.

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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

Weight Gain in Mid-20s is Linked to Early Death, Study Says

According to the study published in the BMJ journal, weight loss at older ages (from middle to late adulthood) was also linked to higher risk

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Weight loss at older ages , Apart from Weight gain (from middle to late adulthood) is also linked to higher risk. Pixabay

Weight Gain from your mid-20s into middle age is associated with an increased risk of premature death, warn researchers.

According to the study published in the BMJ journal, weight loss at older ages (from middle to late adulthood) was also linked to higher risk.

“The results highlight the importance of maintaining normal weight across adulthood, especially preventing weight gain in early adulthood, for preventing premature deaths in later life,” said study researchers from China.

For the study, researchers based in China set out to investigate the association between weight changes across adulthood and mortality.

Their findings were based on data from the 1988-94 and 1999-2014 US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a nationally representative annual survey that includes interviews, physical examinations and blood samples, to gauge the health of the US citizens.

Their analysis included 36,051 people aged 40 years or over with measured body weight and height at the start of the survey (baseline) and recalled weight at young adulthood (25 years old) and middle adulthood (average age 47 years).

Deaths from any cause and specifically from heart diseases were recorded for an average of 12 years, during which time there were 10,500 deaths.

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Weight Gain from young to middle adulthood was associated with increased risk of mortality, compared with participants who remained at normal weight. Pixabay

After taking account of potentially influential factors, the researchers found that people who remained obese throughout adult life had the highest risk of mortality, while people who remained overweight throughout adult life had a very modest or no association with mortality.

Weight gain from young to middle adulthood was associated with increased risk of mortality, compared with participants who remained at normal weight.

Weight loss over this period was not significantly related to mortality.

ALSO READ: Workout Before Breakfast To Get Fit, Says Study

But as people got older, the association between weight gain and mortality weakened, whereas the association with weight loss from middle to late adulthood became stronger and significant. (IANS)