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Study reveals obesity among urban poor higher than national average

  • Published at 01:13 am January 27th, 2019
World Health Organization (WHO) data says the national average obesity rate in Bangladesh is 24.2% for women and 16.4% for men Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

According to the study, the combined overweight and obesity rate among slum dwellers in the capital is 39.2% for women and 18.9% for men

Although many people believe that obesity is a problem for the rich, as they have no problems affording food and are less likely to take labour intensive jobs, a recent study has revealed that the overweight and obesity rate among slum dwellers in Dhaka is higher than the national average.

The study, titled “Prevalence of non-communicable disease risk factors among poor shanty-town residents in Dhaka, Bangladesh: A community-based cross-sectional survey,” was published in open online journal BMJ Open. 

The study was conducted by 12 researchers from various countries, including Bangladesh and Japan, and is based on interviews and physical examinations of over 2,000 residents from 18-64 years of age at a slum in Bauniabadh, Dhaka. 

According to the study, the combined overweight and obesity rate among slum dwellers in the capital is 39.2% for women and 18.9% for men. In comparison, World Health Organization (WHO) data says the national average overweight and obesity rate in Bangladesh is 24.2% for women and 16.4% for men. 

The prevalence rate of diabetes among the slum residents was found to be 22.5% for women and 15.6% for men, which are near double the national averages of 8.6% for men and 7.4% for women. The study also found high prevalence of hypertension, at 18.6% in men and 20.7% in women.

Furthermore, 60.4% of men and 23.5% of women of the slum were found to be tobacco users.

Cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary are major Non Communicable diseases that are increasing all over the world, and obesity is one of the major risk factors for these diseases.

According to the WHO country profile for Bangladesh in 2016, 17% of deaths in the country occurred due to cardiovascular diseases, 10% cancer, 11% respiratory diseases, 3% diabetes, and 18 % from other non communicable diseases.

Through the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), member states have committed to ending all forms of malnutrition and obesity by 2030.

What do the experts say?

Co-researcher of the study and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University Assistant Prof Khalequzzaman told the Dhaka Tribune the research team was surprised by the high prevalence of obesity among slum residents.“A changing pattern of lifestyle, including working patterns, is one of the reasons why obesity is increasing among slum dwellers in Dhaka. Slum dwellers in the city, especially women, are not participating in as much physical activity as rural women,” he added.

The reduction in physical activity is a result of more and more slum residents taking jobs that were less labour intensive than agricultural work, such as by serving as shopkeepers or garment workers.

Furthermore, a high carbohydrate diet and increased intake of food with sugar, edible oil, and salt are also contributing to the high obesity rate among slum dwellers, Prof Khalequzzaman said.

Professor Shuvagota Chowdhury, director of laboratory services at the Bangladesh Institute of Research and Rehabilitation in Diabetes, Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders (BIRDEM), blamed street food for the increasing obesity rate among slum dwellers.

“Street food contains high levels of fat and sugar. The snacks are also usually fried in burnt oil, which is black in colour and causes cancer,” he added, suggesting that awareness of the negative impact of street and junk food be raised.

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