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April 14, 2016
Some 4,750 extra-wide seats were made available at World Cup stadiums across Brazil to accommodate not only the world’s obesity problem but Brazil’s arising obesity issue. The low backed, wide seats were installed due to Brazilian law which classes obesity as a disability and therefore needs to be accommodated. Following Brazil’s humiliating and impressive exit to the World Cup at the hands of the Germans earlier this week, the immediate concerns in Brazil will be over the standard of football rather than the rising health issues. Obesity today is a mainstream issue in Brazil and looks set to continue to rise unless something ois done about it sooner rather than later.
In comparison to other countries such as the United States and Mexico where approximately a third of people are obese, Brazil’s situation does not seem as severe. However, in 2012 about 1 in 7 Brazilians were classed as obese and the country that was once associated with malnutrition and related health impacts is now facing obesity health problems such as rising cases of heart disease and diabetes. The extent of the problem can be seen where in 1975 just 19% of Brazilian men and 29% of Brazilian women were overweight and with these figures steadily rising, today 54% of Brazilian and 48% of Brazilian women are now overweight. Brazil does not of course stand alone with obesity becoming a common problem in Latin America over the past 20 years. Some countries in Latin America have seen their overweight population soar from below 10% to over 50% in just two decades.
Brazil is one of the most diverse countries in Latin America with the south baring comparisons to Europe, the north often being regarded as housing regions of poverty whilst the Amazon basin has rural indigenous populations. Ignoring the characterisation of Brazil’s regions, the Brazilians from a low-income background have now become dependent on food that is both high in carbohydrates and sugars. This change in consumption has translated into a rapid change in weight and as a result weight-related health issues. Whereas bariatric surgeons used to treat Brazilians looking for the typical Brazilian beach body, nowadays people are going with the aim of becoming healthy again. Bariatric surgery covers a wide range of medical and surgical procedures with the overall goal being to reduce a patient’s appetite and consumption of food. It is becoming a more often than not ‘get out of jail free card’ for patients classed as morbidly obese looking for a new start and to reduce the effects of obesity. The result of bariatric procedures is changing the patient’s diet and consumption habits which will in turn help them to combat obesity.
Healthy foods in Brazil have become more expensive with both rural and urban communities reducing their consumption of fruit and vegetables, substituting them for more meat, sugar and processed foods. Even the most rural communities are now exposed to processed foods as a result of the growing rates of globalisation in Brazil. The severity of this problem is shown by Nestle which has been providing scheduled boats for the last 4 years that serve as floating supermarkets in order to reach remote populations residing in the Amazon. Communities in the remotest parts of Brazil can now buy branded goods and often choose to do so instead of the locally produced farm goods. In recent years Brazil has also witnessed a change in culture with thinness being associated with poverty and being heavier has therefore become a desired attribute. As a result off this change in food culture, cardiovascular diseases and strokes are now the leading cause of death in Brazil, closely followed up by diabetes.
The food culture of Brazil needs to change if it is to stall the growth of obesity rates in the country. Healthy food options and attitudes towards the healthier alternatives need to become the easier choices and although the rich and middle-class in Brazil is growing quickly, so too are the rates of the poor in the country. Education is to become an important factor in ensuring that Brazilians know and understand more about what they are eating. This problem is not only unique to Brazil however the issue is one that needs to be tackled. The Brazilian government and Health Ministry are joining forces in an attempt to stunt the growing rates of obesity with a number of projects including issuing public food guidelines and school programs to source locally 40% of the food served. With child obesity reaching adult levels and surgery being a radical way to treat obesity, the future of Brazil’s obesity issue should be tackled using educational methods to change national eating habits within both rural and urban areas infiltrating the different classes of the Brazilian population.
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