Sunday, September 21, 2014

Obesity and the Third World

Fat is no longer just a developed world problem. Forget those tired old clichés beloved by the aid industry. Today more people in poorer countries go to bed each night having consumed too many calories than go to bed hungry. A landmark report by the Overseas Development Institute earlier in 2014 showed that more than one-third of the world’s adults are overweight – and that almost two-thirds of the world’s overweight people are found in low and middle-income nations. The number of obese or overweight people in developing countries rose from 250 million to almost 1 billion in under three decades, and these rates are rising significantly faster than in rich nations. South Africa typifies this alarming new trend, with nearly double the average global obesity rates, and according to another report has become the world’s third fattest nation. Nearly two-thirds of the population is overweight and, unlike in the developed world, the problem afflicts more women than men. Incredibly, 69.3% of South African females display unhealthy levels of body fat and more than four in 10 are clinically obese (defined as having a BMI higher than 30). More than half the women in Botswana and one in eight Nigerian men are also obese, while Egypt saw one of the fastest rises among women. Obesity is on the rise in poorer nations even among children; more than a quarter of girls and almost one in five boys in South Africa is overweight. Experts say that diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular conditions and diabetes will soon overtake HIV and tuberculosis as the biggest causes of death in South Africa. In the next decade many countries will not be able to afford their health costs, and this includes South Africa.

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