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Only 15% Indian women are overweight: Study

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  • Only 15% Indian women are overweight: Study

    The Times of India (TOI)
    November 26, 2010 Friday

    Only 15% Indian women are overweight: Study

    by Kounteya Sinha

    NEW DELHI: This could come as a bit of a surprise. Contrary to popular
    perception, Indian women aren't all that fat. In an interesting study,
    conducted by researchers from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH),
    which looked at percentage of women who were overweight in 54 low and
    middle-income countries, India figures in the bottom five
    worst-affected countries.

    According to the study, the average Body Mass Index (BMI) of an Indian
    woman is 21, and only 15% - aged between 15-49 - are overweight.

    Researchers said women with BMI above 25 was assigned as overweight.
    The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
    on November 20.

    S V Subramanian, associate professor in the department of society,
    human development and health at HSPH, told TOI, "India is among the
    bottom five countries in terms of its BMI. So, overall India is still
    far from hitting the overweight mark. The overall prevalence of
    overweight in India is also among the lowest at 15%. But, it varies
    dramatically as per socio-economic status - the rich are heavier and
    poor are lighter."

    Besides India, countries with lighter burden of overweight women
    include Ethiopia (6.3%), Cambodia (7.3%), Nepal (7.9%), Cameroon
    (9.2%), Madagascar (10.4%), Chad (11.3%), Congo (12.9%), Bangladesh
    (13.8%) and Malawi (13.9%).

    Ethiopia (20.4), Bangladesh (20.9), Nepal (20.6), India and Cameroon
    (21) boast of women with lowest BMI. Egypt leads the way as far as
    heavier women is concerned - the average BMI being as high as 28.7 -
    followed by Jordan (28.3), Swaziland (26.4), Turkey (26.7), Nicaragua
    and Bolivia (25.5).

    When it comes to percentage of female population being overweight,
    Egypt again tops the chart (75%), followed by Jordan (69%), Bolivia
    (46.7)%, Armenia (43.3%) and Colombia (42%).

    According to Dr Subramanian, the study found that high BMI in
    developing countries remains primarily a problem of the rich. The
    findings suggest that the shift towards overweight and obesity among
    the poor that has already happened in wealthier countries has not yet
    happened in developing nations. Subramanian and his colleagues
    analysed data from nationally representative samples of 538,140 women
    - aged between 15 and 49 - drawn from Demographic and Health Surveys
    conducted in 54 low to middle-income countries between 1994 and 2008.
    The researchers found an association between BMI and wealth in every
    country. Globally, a 25% rise in wealth index was associated with a
    54% spurt in BMI and a 33% increase in overweight.

    "Previous research has assumed that the burden of obesity is shared by
    everybody within these countries; we found that the social patterning
    of weight continues to closely resemble the unequal distribution of
    income," he added. The researchers claim that these findings could be
    due to a number of factors, including that women in higher-income
    groups are more likely to have diets richer in animal fats than those
    from lower-income ones.

    From: A. Papazian