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J Nutr. 2001 Mar;131(3):893S-899S.

Obesity trends in Latin America: transiting from under- to overweight.

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  • 1Universidad de Chile, Instituto de Nutricion y Tecnologia de los Alimentos (INTA), Casilla 138-11, Santiago, Chile. uauy@uchile.cl

Abstract

Latin America is undergoing a rapid demographic and nutritional transition. A recent WHO/PAHO survey on obesity in the region revealed an increasing trend in obesity as countries emerge from poverty, especially in urban areas. In contrast, in middle income countries, obesity tends to decline as income increases; this is especially so in women. Dietary changes and increasing inactivity are considered the crucial contributory factors that explain this rise. The end result is a progressive rise in overweight and obesity, especially in low income groups who improve their income and buy high fat/high carbohydrate energy-dense foods. Intake of these foods increases to the detriment of grains, fruits and vegetables. Most aboriginal populations of the Americas have changed their diet and physical activity patterns to fit an industrialized country model. They now derive most of their diet from Western foods and live sedentary and physically inactive lives. Under these circumstances they develop high rates of obesity, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. Supplementary feeding programs are common in the region; the number of beneficiaries significantly exceeds the malnourished. Weight-for-age definition of undernutrition without assessment of length will overestimate the dimension of malnutrition and neglect the identification of stunted overweight children. Providing food to low income stunted populations may be beneficial for some, although it may be detrimental for others, inducing obesity especially in urban areas. Defining the right combination of foods/nutrients, education and lifestyle interventions that are required to optimize nutrition and health is a present imperative.

PMID:
11238781
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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