Diabetes, obesity a growing problem in developing world

Overweight woman outside the Indian parliament in New Delhi. RAVEENDRAN/AFP/Getty Images

The obesity and diabetes epidemic is spreading to parts of the world where historically the problem has been less pronounced, a new study finds, and it is linked to increased TV, car and computer ownership.

The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, looked at obesity and Type 2 diabetes in households in "low income" countries, like Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Pakistan and India; "middle income" countries, like Argentina and China; and "high income" countries, like Canada and Sweden. Participants were asked if they owned a car, a TV or a computer. They were also asked about their diets and level of physical activity, and their measurements and weight were recorded. More than 100,000 households participated. 

 
What the study found was that as households in the lower income countries added televisions, cars and other modern conveniences, obesity rates more than quadrupled, and rates of Type 2 diabetes more than doubled. In the higher income countries, the difference was only marginal, presumably, the researchers said, because the negative impact from the modern day devices had already occurred.  

Lead author Dr. Scott Lear with Canada's Simon Fraser University says the results give cause for concern.

"With increasing uptake of modern-day conveniences," he said, "low and middle income countries could see the same obesity and diabetes rates as in high income countries, that are the result of too much sitting, less physical activity, and increased consumption of calories." 

Across all income categories, TVs were the most common device owned by households -- 78 percent owned at least one TV. Thirty-four percent of households owned computers. Only 32 percent owned cars.

In the lower income countries, households that owned all three devices had a 31 percent decrease in physical activity, compared to households that owned none, and there was a 3.5 inch difference in waist size between the two groups.


  • Aliah Git

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