Obesity on rise in rural areas: Study

Obesity has grown faster in rural areas than in urban in the past three decades, a global study has revealed highlighting the changing lifestyle and its impending health implications in villages.

Two endocrinologists from Kashmir have been a part of the study.

Last week, research published in the leading science journal Nature brought to fore the spike in obesity levels among rural populations.

The study led by Imperial College of London is based on analysis of data from 112 million adults across the world spanning more than three decades between 1985 and 2017.

Dr Abdul Hameed Zargar and Dr Shariq Masoodi, noted endocrinologists from Kashmir, have contributed data for the study that has mapped how in rural areas the rate of obesity growth is much faster in comparison with the rise overweight people in urban areas.

The study had about 20 contributing centers from across India.

It found faster or equivalent growth in BMI (body-mass index) in rural areas of low and middle income countries like India.

“These trends have resulted in a closing—and in some countries reversal—of the gap in BMI between urban and rural areas …especially for women,” the study findings state.

Dr Zargar said that obesity in J&K was getting worse every decade, and to make things worse, the onset of obesity is now occurring at lower age.

“What was earlier considered an urban phenomenon, obesity has now taken rural areas by storm as well, thanks to the sedentary lifestyles and changing diet patterns,” Dr Zargar said, blaming high calorie diet intake and reduction in physical activity among rural populations, especially women as the root cause of the “epidemic”.

Dismissing the perception of household or office work as activity, Dr Zargar said, “Being busy does not mean one is spending calories. People need to move, run, exercise.”

He said that the expenditure of energy that was taking place through physical activity has slowly been taken over by gadgets and machines, drastically reducing the calorie spend, while the intake has remained the same.

“The reason behind the staggering rise in diabetes, cardiac ailments and Polycystic Ovarian Disease (PCOD) in Kashmir is primarily due to rise in obesity levels,” Dr Zargar said.

Dr Shariq Masoodi said that the data made it clear how, over the years, changes in lifestyle in rural areas have contributed to growth in obesity.

He said while area specific and individual specific investigations would reveal the exact cause of obesity, the rule of the thumb was simple: imbalance between calorie intake and calories expenditure.

“Obesity can be decoded simply as eating more than what one spends or spending less than what one eats,” Dr Masoodi said.

Detailing out his experience regarding obesity in rural populations, Dr Masoodi said, “Earlier, farming was the primary occupation in rural areas, and it was labour intensive where men and women would toil hard in the fields.”

The advent of mechanised farming where there are machines for de-weeding, harvesting and de-husking and the change in livelihood patterns where more and more people are taking up sedentary occupations, has added kilos to the bodies of people, Dr Masoodi explained.

The study, the endocrinologists said, has illustrated how awareness and early interventions to reduce obesity can help in evading a plethora of diseases.

“Kashmir needs to gear up to fight obesity, in rural and in urban areas and the first step is to weigh the activity and diet balance of an individual,” Dr Masoodi said.