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Environment News Network (ENN) states that “more than 1.9 billion people worldwide were overweight in 2010, a 25 percent increase since 2002.” Doctors have found that people throughout the world are getting fatter with the possible exception of East Asia.
Overall, 24 percent of men and 27 percent of women seeing their doctors in a typical day are obese, and another 30 percent of men and 40 percent of women are overweight. This trend is strongly correlated to rising income and to an increase in preventable health problems.
The trend over the last decade toward heavier populations cuts across regions and income levels. In India, 19 percent of adults are overweight, up from 14 percent in 2002. In Mexico, the figure has risen by 8 percent since 2002, while Brazil’s is up by 7 percent and the rate in the U.K. is up by 5 percent. East Asia has seen a 4 percent increase over the period. The United States leads all industrialized countries with 78.6 percent of the adult population overweight.
That analysis shows that some 75 percent of adults in the 10 richest countries are overweight, while in the 10 poorest, only 18 percent are. On a regional level, the correlation between income and being overweight holds reasonably well. Europe generally has elevated levels, for example, while low-income sub-Saharan Africa averages lower body mass index (BMI) levels.
At a national level, however, the situation is more complex. A comparison of percentages of overweight people in all countries and their GDPs reveals a positive but weak correlation, with cultural, societal, and possibly genetic factors playing heavily into the mix.
People with a BMI between 18-24 are considered healthy. A BMI of 25 or greater is considered overweight, while a BMI of 30 or above is labeled “obese.”
Only about 7 percent of people in eastern Asia were obese, compared to 36 percent of people in Canada, 38 percent of women in the Middle East, and 40 percent in South Africa. In Northern Europe, men had an average BMI of 27 and women 26, just into the overweight category. Southern Europe, Australia, and Latin America had similar averages BMI of 28.
However, these are the calculations of those people who were all seeing doctors at the time of the study. While the poorest people in industrialized countries tend to be among the most overweight, this is not the case in the developing world, where the poorest have a very little chance of seeing a doctor, not to mention they are often undernourished.
People who are overweight and obese have a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer. Exercise alone will not cut the risk of heart disease unless they also slim down.
“Even high quantities of physical activity are unlikely to fully reverse the risk of coronary heart disease in overweight and obese women without concurrent weight loss,” said Dr. Amy Weinstein of Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
In a study conducted by Weinstein, active women with normal weight had the lowest risk of developing heart problems while there was a slightly higher risk for those with normal weight who were not active. The risk was next highest for active women who were either overweight or obese, and the highest for similar women who were inactive.
Weinstein explained that fat cells produce chemicals that can speed up hardening of the arteries and increase inflammation, harming blood vessels. On the other hand, physical activity makes for healthier blood vessels and reduces the risk of blood clots.
Before trying any exercise or diet regiment, Weinstein and other researchers urge people to visit their doctors first. Only with the right method and with someone watching over them can people lose weight and maintain it.