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Brazil has a growing obesity problem

"In Brazil, being thin is associated with poverty, so culture has accepted being heavier as a desirable trait," said Ricardo Uauy.
By Brooks Hays   |   July 9, 2014 at 5:26 PM   |   Comments

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RIO DE JANEIRO, July 9 (UPI) -- The mood in Brazil is somber this week after its national teams' 7-1 World Cup semifinal thrashing at the hands of Germany. But there's another more serious problem -- a health problem -- in the South American country of 200 million.

That problem is obesity. A problem that could get worse if Brazilians decide to self-medicate their soccer sadness by overeating.

When it comes to expanding waistlines, Brazil still lags well behind countries like the United States and Mexico, where almost a third of the population is overweight. But what's alarming about Brazil's weight problem is the rate in which its become a pressing issue.

In 1975, only 19 percent of Brazilian men and 29 percent of Brazilian women were overweight, even fewer were by definition obese. Today, nearly half the country is overweight and about one in seven Brazilians are obese.

"The transition to becoming overweight has been rapid in the whole of Latin America over the past 20 years and countries have gone from having below 10% of their population overweight to over 50 percent," Ricardo Uauy, a nutrition expert and public health professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, recently told CNN.

"In Brazil, being thin is associated with poverty, so culture has accepted being heavier as a desirable trait," added Uauy.

Of course Brazil is not alone. As more and more of the developing world adopts American eating habits, the problems of diabetes and obesity have been growing in places previously free of such concerns.

For its part, the Brazilian government has been trying to make good on its plan to construct 4,000 free public gyms, but the program has been mired in funding problems and the weight of an burdensome bureaucracy.

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