Obesity is no longer an exclusively Western problem. Researchers say weight problems also pose a serious health threat to people in developing nations, particularly children. Until recently, famine and infectious diseases have been the biggest threats to the health of poor people in developing countries. Now, rapid shifts in urbanisation, technology, food processing and even leisure time in developing countries are causing a rise in obesity levels.
Paradoxically, childhood malnutrition and stunted growth may be found hand-in-hand with adult obesity in many places. The phenomenon means countries that still face problems of under-nutrition also need to pay attention to the prevention of obesity-related illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
Obesity is also on the increase among non-Western immigrants to industrialised countries, as well as certain Western groups undergoing rapid socioeconomic changes. Researcher Marquisa La Velle, of the University of Rhode Island, has studied changing health patterns in South Africa and Australia. She says the findings show obesity has become a global problem.