Researchers Sound Alarm

Susan Farley
Published Online: Tuesday, June 1, 2004

According to recent statistics from the International Obesity Task Force, every fourth person on the planet is overweight. Of those 1.7 billion people, 312 million are obese?at least 30 lb overweight. What is most alarming to scientists is the parts of the world where obesity has spread. In India, 2 of every 3 adolescents are overweight. In the Russian republic of Tatarstan, the rate of heart disease among adults aged 30 to 59 is twice as high as the US rate. Researchers attribute this rate to obesity, smoking, lack of exercise, and untreated hypertension.

In the South Pacific islands, Greece, and Kuwait, carbohydrates and fast foods have replaced traditionally healthy meals. In the southern African country of Zambia, which experienced a food crisis in 2002, 10% to 15% of urban schoolchildren are obese. In Mexico, 40% of the 105 million residents live in poverty, yet two thirds of these men and women are obese. High-fat, high-starch foods tend to be cheaper.

"It's a myth that you can't have poverty and obesity coexisting," said Tufts University nutritionist Bea Rogers. Researchers point to the easy access and affordability of high-fat food, the surge in convenience technology, and the demand for convenience food created by more women entering the work force as reasons why obesity rates are climbing. Experts say that it is unreasonable to expect a reverse in lifestyles at this point and that it would be difficult to maintain current weight levels.

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