Imperial College London Study Shows Obesity More Common in Rural Areas

A study conducted by Imperial College London that focuses on global trends in body mass index (BMI) stated that there is a growing trend of obesity cases in rural areas compared to urban areas. More than 112 million adults across 200 countries were taken into account for the study, analyzing their BMI while tracking whether they came from rural or urban location.

The study look at BMI data from 1985 to 2017 and noted that the average BMI of both men and women increased by around 2.0 kg/m2 to 2.2 kg/m2. There was a noticeable trend of BMI increase in rural areas, where there was an increase of around 2.1 kg/m2 compared to the 1.45 kg/m2 increase in cities.

These numbers debunk many of the preconceived notions of city living being the main cause of obesity. Professor Majid Ezzati of Imperial’s School of Public Health explained that there is a need to rethink the strategy on how we can solve the problem of obesity.

The research cited that the possible reasons why obesity has become more pronounced in rural areas are lower income and limited availability of healthy foods, sports, and leisure activities. Ezzati explained that cities provide more opportunities for healthy living in terms of nutrition, physical and leisure activities, as well as public health awareness.

On the other hand, the increased BMI in rural areas is attributed to improved income and infrastructure, as well as increased car use over the years. This leads to lower energy expenditure and food consumption, a majority of which comes from processed and unhealthy food sources.

What is BMI?

BMI or body mass index is a way to measure a person’s total body fat to determine whether a person is underweight, normal, overweight, or obese. The BMI value of an individual is derived by dividing a person’s mass by the square of that person’s height. The total value is their BMI value that is expressed in kg/m2.

The World Health Organization has a graph that categorizes a person’s total body fat based on their BMI value. Those with a BMI value of over 30 are considered obese, those between 25 and 29.9 are overweight, those between 18.5 and 24.9 have a healthy weight, while those below 18.5 are considered underweight.

BMI is typically used as an indicator to determine possible health risks. Those who are overweight or obese usually run the risk of high cholesterol, stroke, cancer, or joint disease.

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