Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Obesity Becoming World Crisis

It's already being called the next deadly global pandemic.

Projected to be a bigger threat to life than AIDS and malaria combined, obesity is quickly becoming the world's most severe health-care crisis. As waistlines grow alarmingly, so do concerns over the impact an unhealthy population could have on everything from medicine to the economy.

The numbers paint a disturbing picture. The United Nations says there are now more overweight people in the world than starving people. Cardiovascular disease - commonly caused by obesity - kills 17 million people every year. Type II diabetes fatalities are expected to grow by 50 per cent in the next decade.

Obesity is not new, but what's surprising is that it now plagues the developing world, too. Obesity is on a dramatic rise in poor states, as impoverished locals are increasingly introduced to mass-produced imported food that's often cheaper than their local fare.

"It's a huge problem," says Erin Blanding, a development expert and head of Life in Action, a Toronto-based health and lifestyle program. "Eating unhealthy food is what you do when you are poor."

Processed food is becoming a staple in the diets of many developing countries, much of it coming from Western factories. Visit a local market in places like Ecuador or Malawi and you're just as likely to see imported sugary cereals and juices as local produce. Outside, Big Macs are taking the place of traditionally prepared plantains and sweet potato biscuits.

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