Fatter wallets lead to fatter people, according to a new study.
Researchers examined the link between nations' wealth and their obesity rates. They discovered citizens get plumper as their country gets richer.
"As most people currently live in low- and middle-income countries with rising incomes, our findings underscore the urgent need for effective policies to break — or at least weaken — the relationship between income growth and obesity," said study co-author Debabrata Talukdar. He's a professor of marketing at the University at Buffalo School of Management, in New York.
His team analyzed 40 years of data from 147 countries. They found that a 1% increase in per capita income is associated with a 1.23% rise in obesity among men and a 1.01% increase in obesity among women.
More than 2.1 billion people worldwide — nearly 30% of the global population — are overweight or obese, with economic consequences of about $2 trillion each year, according to the study.
The researchers also forecast future obesity trends and predicted that obesity will increase at an average yearly rate of nearly 2.5% in the countries they included in the study.
"Given the highly significant health and economic costs of obesity and the clear importance of economic development, it is vital to gain an in-depth understanding into the association between obesity prevalence and national income," Talukdar said in a university news release.
The challenge is to have economic growth without harming the environment or personal health and well-being, the study authors said.
Approaches to achieve that could include national nutrition plans, and food taxes and subsidies to encourage healthy eating, the team suggested. Other avenues might involve restricting children's exposure to marketing of unhealthy foods and public awareness programs about diet and exercise.
"It will require a concerted, policy-driven effort on multiple aspects of the current socioeconomic system," Talukdar said.
The study results were published online recently in the journal PLOS ONE.