Fast food making Latin American teenagers fatter

January 30th, 2010 - 9:31 am ICT by IANS  

Santiago, Jan 30 (IANS/EFE) Chilean teenagers are becoming obese due to increasing fast food consumption while those from Mexico, Venezuela and Guatemala are not far behind.
Chile, where 44.7 percent of people over 15 were overweight in 2009, was the worst in Latin America and second in the world, said Euromonitor, which released a study on the subject Thursday.

Mexico, Venezuela and Guatemala have been listed among the 10 countries with the highest obesity rates among teenagers due to increasing fast food consumption.

Last year 31.8 percent of Mexicans teenagers over the age of 15 were found to be obese. The country ranked fifth in the list followed by Venezuela which recorded 29.6 percent obese in the same age group. The figure was 27.5 percent in Guatemala which was in the tenth position.

Latin America as a whole still has obesity rates far below than those of developed countries, although the gap will become smaller, it said.

Obesity rates have risen considerably since 1980, when fast-food consumption began to increase in Latin America, and they are expected to climb even further because eating trends in the region point to greater consumption of food with high levels of saturated fat.

Low-income families in particular are increasingly opting for fast food over traditional meals because it is often less expensive. Greater access to higher-fat food and increased urbanisation - which results in more sedentary lifestyles - will contribute to higher obesity rates in the future, the report said.

Latin America also has high numbers of overweight people, which indicates that the obesity trend will continue. The projection for 2020 is that six of the 10 most obese nations will be in the Latin American region.

The statistical measure most often used to gauge excess weight and obesity is the Body Mass Index. The World Health Organisation defines a person as overweight if his or her BMI is between 25 and 29 and as obese if his or her BMI is 30 or higher.

According to WHO estimates, a total of 1.6 billion adults worldwide were overweight in 2005 and at least 400 million were obese.

–IANS/EFE

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