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Adv Nutr. 2012 Jul 1;3(4):491-8. doi: 10.3945/an.112.002063.

Global gender disparities in obesity: a review.

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Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for Human Nutrition, Baltimore, MD, USA.


There is a global obesity pandemic. However, the prevalence of overweight and obesity among men and women varies greatly within and between countries, and overall, more women are obese than men. These gender disparities in overweight and obesity are exacerbated among women in developing countries, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. Yet, in developed countries, more men are overweight than women. Current knowledge suggests that myriad sociocultural dynamics throughout the world exacerbate gender disparities in excess weight gain. Different contextual factors drive gender differences in food consumption, and women often report consuming healthier foods, yet may consume more sugar-laden foods, than men. Acculturation, through complex sociocultural pathways, affects weight gain among both men and women. The nutrition transition taking place in many developing countries has also affected excess weight gain among both genders, but has had an even greater impact on the physical activity levels of women. Furthermore, in some countries, cultural values favor larger body size among women or men as a sign of fertility, healthfulness, or prosperity. As the global obesity pandemic continues, more research on gender disparities in overweight and obesity will improve the understanding of this pandemic.

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