TVs, cars, computers linked to obesity in poor nations

2014-02-11 13:14

Washington – In low-income countries, people with cars, TVs and computers at home are far more likely to be obese than people with no such conveniences.

Eating more, sitting still and missing out on exercise by driving are all likely reasons why people with these modern-day luxuries could be gaining weight and putting themselves at risk for diabetes, researchers said yesterday.

The findings in the Canadian Medical Association Journal suggest extra caution is needed to prevent health dangers in nations that are adopting a Western lifestyle.

“With increasing uptake of modern-day conveniences, low- and middle-income countries could see the same obesity and diabetes rates as in high-income countries that are the result of too much sitting, less physical activity and increased consumption of calories,” said lead author Scott Lear of Simon Fraser University.

“This can lead to potentially devastating societal healthcare consequences in these countries.”

The same relationship did not exist in developed nations, suggesting the harmful effects of these devices on health are already reflected in the high obesity and diabetes rates.

The study included nearly 154 000 adults from 17 countries across the income spectrum, from the US, Canada and Sweden to China, Iran, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

TVs were the most common electronic device in developing countries – 78% of households had one – followed by 34% that owned a computer and 32% with a car.

Just 4% of people in low-income countries had all three, compared to 83% of people in high-income countries.

Those who did have electronics were fatter and less active than those that did not.

People with all three were almost a third less active, sat 20% more of the time and had a 9cm increase in waist circumference, compared to those that owned none of the devices.

The obesity prevalence in developing countries rose from 3.4% among those who owned no devices to 14.5% for those who owned all three.

In Canada, about 25% of the population is obese and in the US, about 35% of people are obese.

“Our findings emphasise the importance of limiting the amount of time spent using household devices, reducing sedentary behaviour and encouraging physical activity in the prevention of obesity and diabetes,” said the study.

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