An international study of 55 countries has shown a marked increase in the number of overweight women globally, with wealthy, educated, and urban women heavier than their counterparts. Ph.D. candidate Md. Mehedi Hasan from The University of Queensland’s Institute for Social Science Research (ISSR) said the number of overweight women increased in 50 countries from 1990 to 2018, while the number of underweight women fell in 35 countries. Mr. Hasan said:
“The research shows inequalities have widened in many countries. Although the prevalence of underweight women declined, this decline has been superseded by the sharp increase in number of overweight women. In women aged between 15 and 49, the highest increase in overweight women was in Nepal (12.4 per cent) and underweight in Morocco (5.5 per cent).”
Subscribe to our Newsletter!
Receive selected content straight into your inbox.
The research predicted that by 2030 in eight of the countries, more than half of the women would be overweight, while around 20 percent of women in 22 countries would be underweight. Mr. Hasan said:
“Noticeable variations in underweight and overweight were observed across family wealth, women’s residence, education and age. The probability of eradicating these issues is nearly zero per cent for all countries except Egypt, which is on track to eradicate all instances of underweight.”
While overweight women are often affluent, many are from poor countries with inadequate nutrition
The study also showed malnutrition, which accounts for both undernutrition and overweight among women of reproductive age, remained a major public health problem worldwide. Researchers analyzed data from nearly 2.4 million women from 55 low- and middle-income countries, with the aim of helping policymakers better identify the world’s most at-risk population groups.
Team member Associate Professor Abdullah Mamun said he hoped the study led to better allocation of resources and services, considering the vulnerability of the disadvantaged population. Dr. Mamum said:
“A multidisciplinary approach to combatting malnutrition, including changing dietary patterns and lifestyle behaviours is essential to strengthening national policies. To fight the growing problem of obesity, many middle-income countries are imposing taxes on high energy-dense foods and strengthening industry regulations to reduce consumption of such foods and drinks.”
But Mr. Hasan said the higher cost of healthier food options could be a burden on people with a lower income:
“Attempts must be made to make healthy foods such as grains, fruits, and vegetables available and affordable for many people by fixing prices, providing subsidies and allocating food vouchers to marginalised and vulnerable populations.”
Provided by: The University of Queensland [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]