Obesity-Induced Disabilities in Latin America and Caribbean Elders

People moved from rural to urban areas and changed their food habits

A study made by the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, links obesity in elderly people from Latin America and Caribbean to disabilities.

Research was conducted on over 6,000 people over age 65 in six cities: São Paulo - Brazil, Bridgetown - Barbados, Havana – Cuba, Santiago – Chile, Mexico City - Mexico and Montevideo – Uruguay. Results certified that obese seniors were more likely to have difficulties walking, dressing, bathing, eating, using the toilet or simply getting in and out of bed.

For this study, a person was considered to be obese if he/she had a BMI equal or higher than 30. The study's leader was UTMB assistant professor Soham al Snih and his report “Obesity and Disability: Relation Among Older Adults Living in Latin America and the Caribbean,” appeared in the June 15 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

“This greater prevalence of obesity is a new thing in Latin America and the Caribbean, the result of people moving from rural to urban areas and shifting their nutritional habits and other aspects of their lives to a more Western pattern,” he said “At the same time, we're seeing a substantial increase in life expectancy. The close relationship that we found between obesity and disability in older adults suggests that we really need to work to prevent these populations from becoming obese.”

If no effort is made to encourage Latin American and Caribbean populations to eat healthier and exercise more, more and more people will become vulnerable to diseases such as diabetes, heart conditions and arthritis, e! Science News relates.

“We need to reorient people to better nutrition, we need to screen for these diseases and do as much as we can to prevent them, and we need to involve these populations in exercise and increase their activity level,” al Snih added. “It's very important, because otherwise it will cost much more in the long run.”

Obesity rates among the elderly go from a low of 13.3% in Havana to a high of 37.6% in Montevideo.

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