Between 1980 and 2008, the number of obese or overweight people in the developing world nearly quadrupled. Steve Wiggins, who co-authored the report, believes that’s a function of income growth in poorer nations. “As countries go from being low-income to middle-income, and heading towards high-income, people earn more [money], and they can eat the foods that they find tasty,” Wiggins explained to NPR. That doesn’t mean the obesity epidemic isn’t related to poverty; health disparities are still evident among different socioeconomic classes. Mexico provides one of the clearest examples of this dynamic. Mexico’s obesity rate surpassed the United States‘ this past summer, with the issue largely concentrated among the lower class. “The same people who are malnourished are the ones who are becoming obese,” physician Abelardo Avila with Mexico’s National Nutrition Institute told CBS News at the time. “In the poor classes we have obese parents and malnourished children. The worst thing is the children are becoming programmed for obesity. It’s a very serious epidemic.”
Sophie McBain examines the public health implications:
Over the past thirty years, wealthier individuals in low-income countries have been eating more, leading more sedentary lifestyles, and consuming a diet richer in meat, fat and sugar than ever before. The proportion of overweight and obese people in North Africa, the Middle East and Latin America is now about the same as in Europe and North America. This places hundreds of thousands of people in these regions at heightened risk of heart disease and diabetes, many of whom will not have access to adequate medical care and advice. According to the World Health Organisation, for instance, 80 per cent of diabetes deaths occur in low to middle income countries, and by 2030 diabetes is projected to be the seventh leading cause of death worldwide.
Meanwhile, the World Food Programme estimates that 784m go hungry, and the ODI reports that a third of infants worldwide are stunted due to malnutrition.