THURSDAY, June 3, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Obesity is affecting a growing number of poor women in developing countries, says a study by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) and the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil.
Economic growth and the resulting increased availability of food means obesity is becoming a health threat for poor people in a number of countries where, previously, only the rich became overweight.
Researchers analyzed data on 149,000 women, aged 20 to 49, in 37 countries. The findings were published online June 2 in the International Journal of Obesity.
"In the 20th century, scholars discovered that the poor in high-income countries had more obesity and non-communicable diseases than people who were better off financially," Dr. Barry M. Popkin, a professor of nutrition at the UNC schools of public health and medicine, said in a prepared statement.
"But the opposite was true in poorer countries where people could not afford enough food to get fat. As a group, only richer people there suffered the consequences of being too heavy," Popkin said.
"Worldwide, the burden of obesity increasingly rests on the poor and less educated, even in many developing nations we never thought of as having an obesity problem," he said.
The U.S. National Women's Health Information Center has more about obesity.