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The World Obesity Federation has named and shamed the worlds’ largest countries – and Burma has made a surprise appearance on the list.
The first in a list of the top five countries experiencing a rapid rise in obesity, Burma has the unenviable accolade of a 29.3 percent increase in adult obesity between 2010–14, beating out Uganda (26.7 percent), Cambodia (26.1 percent), Lao (26 percent) and Burundi (24.1).
Although the rates of obesity are much lower than that of Pacific Island nations and many Western countries, increased weights and poor healthcare is sure to put the squeeze on the already stressed medical sector.
Dr Tim Lobstein told The Guardian that the dramatic increase in developing countries that experience a high degree of malnourishment can be caused by the sugary substitutes used to top up calories in children.
With waistlines widening as the market expands with the arrival of fast food giants such as KFC, and convenience stores increasingly stocking fatty snacks, Burmese may want to steer away from Western fare, and encourage their children to return to healthier options.
Speaking to DVB about keeping Burmese children healthy, Vincent, a father of one, said that many children face malnourishment in the community.
“I am not sure that it is true … maybe in rich communities [there is more obesity] but parents struggle to provide enough nutrients to their children,” he said.
He added that adults may be suffering more obesity, but again, this could be a malady experienced predominantly by the upper class.
A 2008 World Health Organisation report on non-communicable diseases seemed to note the weight-gain trend early on, attributing 25 percent of deaths caused by non-communicable illnesses to cardiovascular disease, a condition highly correlated with obesity.
But whether Burmese fast food enthusiasts will lay off greasy samosas and carbonated sodas, and move back to traditional food, is another story.