Why are obesity rates rising in developing countries?
According to global reports, hunger is no longer the world’s leading health crisis. Reports show that over the past 20 years, obesity rates have risen an alarming 82% across the globe, and obesity has taken over the number one spot as the leading cause of health burdens.
According to TIME magazine, over 33% of adults worldwide suffer from obesity. The number of overweight adults has surged four-fold over the past thirty years, and this epidemic is disproportionately affecting developing countries. Developed countries have seen a recent slowdown of obesity rates while the developing world’s rates are continuously climbing. Recent research has suggested that there are two main causes for this trend: eating richer diets and living lifestyles that are more sedentary.
Effects of Globalization
Globalization has allowed high-calorie snacks to be both cheap and readily available. In many countries, this is leading to an excessive consumption of sugar, fat and salt. Specifically focusing on America, those in the lower and middle-income brackets do not go hungry but often do suffer from a lack of nutritious and balanced meals. According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, refined grains, added fats and added sugars are the lowest-cost sources for dietary energy, and taking on such a diet can effectively save individuals money while allowing them to eat more.
A century ago, only about 1 in 10 people lived in the city but today that number has climbed to over 50%. Urbanization coupled with our rapidly evolving technology has significantly contributed to our modern sedentary lifestyle. We no longer need to walk or bike to the store but rather drive in cars. We have labor-saving technologies such as washing machines and electric stoves. The average worker has shifted away from highly active jobs to less physically demanding positions. On top of all this, modern humans increasingly spend their leisure time focused on the television or computer rather than spending time outdoors. These combined factors ultimately result in a much less active lifestyle and increased obesity rates across the world.
Risks of Obesity
Being overweight poses a number of health risks, and the current social trend towards obesity is causing an alarming amount of medical concerns. Marie Ng is the Assistant Professor of Global Health, and she has extensively reviewed the modern obesity issue. She explains, “There are severe downstream health effects from childhood obesity including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and many cancers.” When an individual is considered overweight at any age, they are more susceptible to chronic kidney disease, joint pain, osteoarthritis and a shorter life span. In 2010, 3.4 million deaths were attributed to obesity. These consequences impact more than just the individuals who suffer from them. Developing country’s emerging economies are beginning to face overwhelming health care expenses and lost wages due to lower productivity rates.
Currently about 13% of the world’s obese individuals maintain residence in the United States where we see excessively energy-dense diets and sedentary lifestyles. For the first time in human history, we have more overweight people than those suffering from hunger. It is obvious that this dangerous trend needs much more attention to avoid the future negative impacts on society.