America isn’t the only nation with a weight problem. Not anymore. A new study finds obesity and high blood pressure — endemic in affluent nations like the U.S. — are increasingly spreading in lower-income non-Western countries as well.
The new research, published in the journal Circulation, shows that the average body mass index (BMI) of the population is now just as high in middle-income countries as rich nations. For blood pressure, the rates among women are actually higher in poorer countries than rich ones.
The findings — led by researchers from Imperial College London and Harvard School of Public Health — analyzed data from 199 countries between 1980 and 2008 for the prevalence of risk factors related to heart and circulatory disease. In 1980, a country's income was correlated with the population's average blood pressure, cholesterol, and BMI.
But by 2008, there was no relationship between national income and blood pressure in men, and in women blood pressure was higher in poorer countries. BMI was still lowest in the poorest countries, but higher in middle-income countries than the wealthiest countries.
Cholesterol remained higher in higher-income Western countries, while fasting blood sugar — linked to diabetes — was only weakly related with income and affluence, but correlated with obesity.
"This study shows that non-communicable diseases are no longer 'diseases of affluence.' They've shifted from being epidemic in rich countries to become a truly international pandemic,” said lead researcher Majid Ezzati, from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London.
"If current trends continue, developing countries will be confronted with a rising tide of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. Meanwhile, developed countries will continue to face an epidemic of diabetes and high cholesterol."
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