Obesity ballooning in developing world: report

A third of all adults around the world -- 1.46 billion people -- are obese or overweight, London-based Overseas Development Institute has said. Photo - AFP

The number of obese and overweight people in the developing world nearly quadrupled to almost a billion between 1980 and 2008, a think-tank report said on Friday.

There are now far more obese or overweight adults in the developing world than in richer countries, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) said.

The London-based institute said more than a third of all adults around the world -- 1.46 billion people -- were obese or overweight.

Between 1980 and 2008, the numbers of people affected in the developing world rose from 250 million to 904 million. In the developed world, the figure rose from 321 million to 557 million.

"The growing rates of overweight and obesity in developing countries are alarming," said ODI research fellow Steve Wiggins, who co-authored the Future Diets report.

"On current trends, globally, we will see a huge increase in the number of people suffering certain types of cancer, diabetes, strokes and heart attacks, putting an enormous burden on public healthcare systems."

The report said overweight and obesity rates have almost doubled in China and Mexico since 1980, and risen by a third in South Africa.

The study said the rise in obesity was down to diets changing in developing countries where incomes were rising, with people shifting away from cereals and tubers to eating more meat, fats and sugar.

The over-consumption of food, coupled with increasingly sedentary lives, was also to blame.

The report said there seemed to be little will among the public and leaders to take action on influencing diet in the future.

"Governments have focused on public awareness campaigns, but evidence shows this is not enough," said Wiggins.

"The lack of action stands in stark contrast to the concerted public actions taken to limit smoking in developed countries.

"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 nutritional value."


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There are many reasons for the overweight problems – a sedentary lifestyle and the working pattern takes its toll. In reality, psychological reasons too affect one’s physical conditions.

Obesity is considered as one of the most preventable health risks. The increase in number of related cases is basically due to disorder in life, particularly in the eating pattern. A good eating habit and regular exercise helps in maintaining a healthy weight that in turn helps avoid any potential health problems. One good example I can share here is the story of an old colleague of mine who was overweight when he was a student. His Middle East life added more ‘weight’ to his appearance in a short span of two years period, mainly due to his bad eating style. He, of late, realised the hidden danger of his health and consulted a physician. He was then advised to follow regular body exercise and committed to be proper dieting. Without any medication he became ‘normal’ in appearance, and now very serious about planning his daily routines.

I am of the opinion that a substantial number of people working in Gulf countries spend their most of the daily hours at work; and it’s a fact that many of them find hardly any time that needs to be dedicated to take care of their health.

It has been encouraging to see a number of articles in the Times of Oman that promote a healthy diet. However we also see many advertisements for fast food, often featured on the front page. It would be great if all the media in Oman were to support healthy lifestyles and not promote junk food.