Thursday, August 12, 2010

Why Are Urban Migrants Likely To Be Obese and Diabetics?

Diabetes is closely linked to obesity, which is a result of increased consumption of saturated fats and sugar coupled with reduced physical activities. Both diabetes and obesity, if not treated and managed appropriately, can lead to development of many other complications including heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol and stroke.

India, with the second largest population in the world, is experiencing diabetes epidemic, just like the rest of the world. Between 1984 and 2004, the number of diabetics has increased in the urban areas of India from 5 percent to 15 percent.

Being an essential part of the economic development, urbanization will naturally attract more people to migrate from rural areas to cities. Such movement would induce changes in diet and behavior for those migrants.

According to the findings of a large study published during April 2010 in “PLoS Medicine”, migrants moving from villages to cities to work are at a higher risk of becoming obese and developing diabetes, compared to their siblings who remain in the villages.

Researchers from the South Asia Network for Chronic Disease in New Delhi, India found that half of the migrants had gained about 14 pounds (6 to 7 kilos) of weight by the tenth year of their relocation. The increase was dramatic and some migrants even gained much more than that.

The study surveyed migrant workers from 4 factories in the north, central and south India, their siblings who were left behind in villages and the non-migrant urban workers. All participants had to answer questions regarding their diet and physical activity, and their blood sugar and body mass index (BMI) were also measured.

The results showed that migrants and the urban workers were 3 to 4 times more likely to be obese and more than 2 times more likely to be diabetics than people remained in the villages. Meanwhile, the migrants and urban workers were almost twice more likely to develop hypertension (high blood pressure) and have higher blood sugar than the villagers. Similar patterns of obesity and diabetes could also be found in women.

Evidence gathered from the study indicated the migrants, who had more money to spend on food, tend to eat more of everything (especially fat) than people in rural areas with other nutrients remained similar. The culprit behind the weight gain was not the Western foods but the ordinary everyday Indian foods.

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