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TVs, cars linked to obesity in poor nations

WASHINGTON: In low-income countries, people with cars, televisions and computers at home are far more likely to be obese than people with no such conveniences, researchers said Monday.

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 of diabetes, researchers said.

The findings in the Canadian Medical 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 – TVs, cars, computers – 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 health care 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 United States, Canada and Sweden to China, Iran, India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

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

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

Those that 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 percent more of the time and had a nine-centimeter increase in waist circumference, compared to those that owned none of the devices.

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

In Canada, about 25 percent of the population is obese and in the United States, about 35 percent of people are obese.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 12, 2014, on page 13.

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Summary

In low-income countries, people with cars, televisions and computers at home are far more likely to be obese than people with no such conveniences, researchers said Monday.

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

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

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


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