Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Obesity and affluence

When guys in their late 30s, or even late 20s now-a-days, put on a small pot belly, the taunt is: "Sign of prosperity!" Stretching that a bit, is obesity a sign of affluence?

The August 14 issue of Outlook had this issue as its cover story. It quotes a study of 1,900 schoolchildren in Delhi by Dr Anoop Misra, director and head, Department of Diabetes and Metabolic Disorders, Fortis Hospital, and formerly with AIIMS. It found that 18 per cent had abdominal obesity and complications like diabetes, hypertension and bad lipid profiles.

The magazine quotes endocrinologist Dr Shaukat Sadikote at Jaslok Hospital in Mumbai: "The average age of adult diabetes was 40, today it’s 16. Everyone has the latest Nike shoes, but who is exercising?"

It's all being blamed on fat-rich food that is far tastier than the healthier bland ones.

In the US, an advocacy group that promotes increased funding for public health programmes -- Trust for America's Health -- came out today with the results of a study. According to it, 31 states in the US showed an increase in obesity. An estimated 29.5 percent of adults there are considered obese.

Interestingly, the five states with the highest obesity rates — Mississippi, Alabama, West Virginia, Louisiana and Kentucky — exhibit much higher rates of poverty than the national norm. The five states with the lowest obesity have less poverty — Colorado, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont.

I have always wondered about this paradox: The more educated and well-advanced societies have poorer health index. When such societies can ensure cleaner food, drinks and air, why not also healthier body system?


  1. “paradox: The more educated and well-advanced societies have poorer health index.”

    It’s the strong forces of demand and supply that goes into play here. Lower the price of a good more of it is consumed (look at % of income spend on food). This results in obesity.

    In fact, if you look at the five states with higher than average levels of poverty, you will also find lower than average educational levels. Its’ been a well founded fact that there is a strong correlation between education levels and incomes. So education and income levels have some impact on reducing the obesity levels.

    One of the main culprits of cheap food is the huge agriculture subsidies given to farmers in the developed countries. I hope this will be an added incentive for the developed world to cut subsidies in the trade negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO)


  2. G,
    Good insight. I wasn't aware of this angle to this.

  3. so when u see me don't judge that i ahve few extra pounds it not my faukt its the US fault :P

    its like, the well to do can afford rich food, whereas the less fortunate cannot and the less fortunate end up eating less oil, no cheesee, and no fat....just boiled vege etc...

  5. Enigma,
    Good excuse!!!

    Moral: "Rich in money" is not equal to "rich in health"

  6. I enjoy reading your blog. There is lot of variety

  7. I wanted to write about this topic myself. I am not sure how many of you have noticed this. It is the poor people in US who are obese, the rich are very likely to be fit & heathy. In India, it is quite the opposite :))

  8. scribe,
    Thank you so much. Hope you will keep coming back often!

    I wasn't aware of this point. Thanks for highlighting it.

  9. Have you also noticed that the labouring class are able to work out what they eat and sleep well and have fitter bodies while the ones with sedentary white collar jobs tend to be obese. This is because we need to change our diet pattern according the kind of energy requirements which we dont.
    Now time to work out all that rice i had for lunch!

  10. Usha,
    I have started saying no-no, quite reluctantly though, to many food stuff. Better that way rather than the doc asking me to.