Economic slowdown tied to rise in obesity in developed countries

May 27, 2014 in Nutrition Topics in the News, Weight Management

Economic slowdown tied to rise in obesity in developed countries

The rate of obesity continues to climb across the world's most developed countries, with certain nations and groups of people such as women and the poor hit harder by the recent economic crisis, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reported today.

While rates are rising as much as 3 percent a year in countries such as Australia, France, Mexico and Switzerland, they have been fairly stable in other countries such as the Unites States, Canada, Korea and Italy.

A review of available data showed that the global recession that struck in 2008 forced many families in harder-hit nations to cut back spending on food, especially healthier but often more expensive options such as fruits and vegetables, in favor of cheaper, less healthy options.

Even in nations that fared better in the economic slowdown, certain groups of people, particularly women and those who are less educated and have lower incomes, were also more likely to be obese.

"The economic crisis is likely to have contributed to further growth in obesity," OECD researchers wrote.

Although the overall rate of obesity has slowed among more economically developed countries over the past five years, the obesity epidemic has not stopped spreading the report stated.

The new report, based on a review of data from 10 OECD countries, will be presented on this week at the European Congress on Obesity in Bulgaria.

Rising obesity rates can also add economic burden as governments grapple with the costs of chronic conditions linked to obesity such as diabetes, heart disease and even cancer.

Current efforts aimed at preventing further weight gain, including using financial incentives to boost wellness or increasing basic health exams, are improving, OECD said.

Other policy efforts, such as stricter rules for advertising unhealthy foods to children, better food labeling and "carefully designed" food and beverage taxes could have an impact, the Paris-based organization said.

One bright spot in the OECD's review: although on average one in five children in developed countries is overweight, "more countries have managed to stabilize or even slightly reduce rates of child obesity than they have of adult obesity."

Source: OECD Obesity Update, June 2014

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