We weigh an average of six pounds more than in 1985. This is one of the main conclusions of what is the largest international study on body mass index (BMI) conducted to date. A team made up of more than a thousand scientists from several nations analyzed the weight and height of more than 112 million people from virtually every country in the world between 1985 and 2017.
The results of the research, published today by the journal Nature, again points to growing obesity but, in fact, contrary to what many believed, in rural areas the problem is (still) more serious than in urban areas. In cities, BMI increased by an average of 1.45 kilograms per square meter (1.3 kilograms in women and 1.6 kilograms in men) since the mid-1980s, less than in the countryside.
In rural areas, the average increase was 2.1 kilos. "We saw the opposite of what we thought was the paradigm," Majid Ezzati, an epidemiologist, told a news conference today, pointing to a new justification. "In countries with higher incomes, it is actually easier to eat healthier in cities because there are [mais] fresh food available and, at the outset, also cheaper, in addition to having more sports equipment, "says the specialist, one of the co-authors of the research.
More than 55% of the increase in BMI recorded comes from rural areas, the scientists said. In some middle-income countries, this percentage reaches as high as 80%. In the Iberian Peninsula, the difference between the countryside and the city "is almost ridiculous", assures, however, Napoleón Perez, co-author of the study. Portugal, Spain, Greece, France and Italy are among the countries where women have least gained weight.