SYDNEY, May 9 (Xinhua) -- Rural population have led the global rise in obesity over the past 30 years, an international study said on Thursday, challenging the notion that being overweight is linked to unhealthy urban lifestyles.
A research team at the Imperial College in London analyzed Body Mass Index (BMI) data from over 112 million adults across 200 countries between 1985 and 2017, revealing that overall, BMI is rising in rural population at the same rate or faster than in cities.
It was previously believed that the global increase of obesity was linked to a growth in the number of people living in cities, however now the correlation seems to be based more on economic factors.
"In Australia, for example, obesity is higher in rural areas and in the outer urban areas around the big cities," Professor Annette Dobson from Queensland University, who contributed to the research told Xinhua.
"It's where people are poorer, they have less money to buy expensive food that might be better quality -- they may also be time poor and junk fast food is readily available now," Dobson said.
Dobson described obesity as a wave which has swept the world over the past three decades, blaming sugary products and foods high in fats and carbohydrates, which are difficult to counteract with exercise.
She compares it to the smoking of tobacco, which began with the wealthiest people living in cities and then spread outwards, with wealthier people now smoking less, while those in poorer areas retained the habit.
Dobson hopes that as people become better off they will be able to choose healthier foods and their diets will improve.
She also suggests government interventions such as Mexico's sugar tax, which was successful in reducing youth obesity.
"I think there is absolutely a role for governments to try and do something about controlling it with legislation, with taxation and with education just like we do with all other public health issues," Dobson said.
"This whole thing has only occurred in 30 years. So if we can get to this bad state in that time, hopefully we can reverse the obesity epidemic within the lifetime of those currently experiencing it," Dobson added.