February 11, 2014
Obesity Linked To Technology Ownership In Developing Nations
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
The influx of televisions and computers could be a mixed blessing for developing countries, as research appearing in the Canadian Medical Association Journal warns that such technology could also bring with it the same obesity epidemic currently plaguing wealthier nations.
The study, published Monday and led by Simon Fraser University health sciences professor Scott Lear, looked at data from more than 150,000 adults from 17 different countries of varying income levels. Lear and his research team questioned each study participant about the type of technology they owned, as well as their physical activity and eating habits.
They found a 400 percent increase in obesity and a 250 percent increase in diabetes among owners of items such as TVs, desktop or laptop computers, and automobiles in low-income countries. Furthermore, their research showed that owning all three devices led to a 31 percent decline in physical activity, a 21 percent increase in time spent in a sedentary position, and a 9 cm increase in waist size when compared to those who owned no devices.
“Although we found no trend between household devices ownership and obesity or diabetes in high income countries, there was a stronger relation as the level of country income decreased,” said Dr. Lear, who is a member of the university’s Faculty of Health Sciences and the Providence Health Care Division of Cardiology in Vancouver.
“With increasing uptake of modern-day conveniences – TVs, cars, computers – low and middle income countries could see the same obesity and diabetes rates as in high income countries that are the result of too much sitting, less physical activity and increased consumption of calories,” he added. “This can lead to potentially devastating societal health care consequences in these countries.”
A total of 153,996 adults from 107,599 households were involved in the study, with 10,000 of those coming from Dr. Lear’s home nation of Canada. The remaining countries included: Sweden and United Arab Emirates (high income); Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Malaysia, Poland, South Africa and Turkey (upper-middle income); China, Columbia and Iran (lower-middle income); and Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Zimbabwe (low income).
More than three-quarters of all households (78 percent) owned at least one television, while 34 percent owned a computer and 32 percent owned a car. The researchers reported that ownership of all three devices increased from low to high income countries (4 percent to 83 percent), and found that possession of technology was also associated with an increase in dietary energy intake and body mass index (BMI).
“The ownership of household devices increased the likelihood of obesity and diabetes, and this was mediated in part by effects on physical activity, sitting time and dietary energy intake,” Dr. Leer and his co-authors wrote in their paper. “With increasing ownership of household devices in developing countries, societal interventions are needed to mitigate their effects on poor health.”