Overweight, obese population in developing world triples since 1980

( Xinhua ) Updated: 2014-01-07 09:43:00

The overweight and obese adult population in the developing nations has more than tripled since 1980, according to a report released Friday by the British Overseas Development Institute (ODI).

The report, published at a time when people are thinking about diets in the New Year, showed the number of obese and overweight adults in the developing world has risen from 250 million to 904 million from 1980 to 2008.

The figure has for the first time overtaken that in rich countries, said the ODI, the British leading independent think tank on international development and humanitarian issues.

In China and Mexico, overweight and obesity rates have almost doubled, while in South Africa the rates rose by a third to be even higher than in Britain. North Africa, the Middle East and Latin America all have similar overweight and obese rates to Europe.

According to the report, nearly 25 percent of the population in China is obese or overweight. Although the rate is half that of Mexico, it is high enough to ring the alarm for the Chinese people.

Steve Wiggins, an expert with ODI, said the change could be attributed to higher income, more sedentary lifestyle, increasing preference for processed food with high energy density and advertising of fast food.

Overweight and obesity could bring forth a number of problems, such as illness, disability and early deaths from cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes, he told Xinhua. "These are personal tragedies, but collectively they mean losses of talent and economic output, and higher costs of health care."

Therefore, he suggested that efforts be strengthened to curb the trend. "Better information and diet education, perhaps taxes on energy-dense foods and subsidies to fruit and vegetables, regulations about advertising of junk food to the minors and making sure that in schools, hospitals, government offices the food on offer represents a healthy diet," he said. "Combinations of such measures can make a difference."

Wiggins also talked about food substitution. The report compared the daily diet of people in 1961 and 2009, discovering that the proportion of animal products soared from 4.46 percent to 19.68 percent. "China is rapidly increasing its livestock consumption," he said.

Wiggins recommended promotion of diets that include less meat. "Perhaps substituting fish," he said. "It should aim to have diets that are as healthy as, or even better than, their Asian neighbors in Korea and Japan."

"It takes less feed to produce fish and shellfish such as prawns than it does to produce pigs and poultry. So moving diets from meat to fish economizes on imports of animal feed," he added.

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