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The root of the obesity epidemic

Increasing the understanding and determinants of obesity can serve as a foundation for policymakers to take necessary steps in combating it.
The root of the obesity epidemic
Obesity has become an epidemic. Nearly one third of people in the EU are overweight and more than 1in 10is clinically obese. Obesity is a health risk since it increases the likelihood of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, musculoskeletal disorders and some types of cancer. As a result, it has also made an impact on the cost of healthcare.

BODYWEIGHTDYNAMICS (Determinants and dynamics of the obesity epidemic) was an EU-funded project that investigated the recent increase in overweight and obese people in China. Researchers used microdata for the period 1991-2009 from the China Health and Nutrition Survey. This helped to identify socioeconomic patterns with regard to being overweight and estimate the importance of increased calorie intake. Also identified was the impact of formal maternal employment on the propensity towards being overweight among Chinese youth. The study involved a comprehensive review of the literature on determinants of obesity, the impact on biological and non-biological outcomes, policy approaches to tackle it and methods suited for the analysis.

China is a good choice as a case study for investigating obesity. The Chinese economy has grown at the rate of 10 % per year in the last three decades where the main areas to benefit were coastal regions. Urban areas have seen the most increase in overweight levels, much like in the United States and various countries in Europe. With more than 20 % of the population being overweight, China falls well below other countries that are above 60 %.

Insights gained from China are useful for both developing countries and more developed societies. The current situation in most developed societies indicates that an increased awareness and movement toward healthy food can help combat obesity. This is particularly the case for those in lower socioeconomic situations.

Findings have been presented at conferences and seminars and will be useful for the scientific community and policymakers.

Related information


Obesity, overweight, health, China, nutrition, developing countries
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