Brazil alarmed over rising obesity rate

RIO DE JANEIRO - In Brazil, a country known for girls in mini-bikinis and where body-consciousness borders on obsession, nearly half the population is overweight, a study by the Ministry of Health released Tuesday found.

"There is a tendency toward increased weight and obesity in the country. It's time to reverse the trend to avoid becoming a country like the United States," said Health Minister Alexandre Padilha.

According to the study, the percentage of overweight people increased from 42.7 per cent in 2006 to 48.5 per cent in 2011 while the obesity rate increased from 11.4 per cent to 15.8 per cent in the same period.

The highest rates for overweight were found among men 35 years old to 45 years old (63 per cent) and women 45 years old to 54 years old (55.9 per cent).

The youngest group in the study were 18-to-24-year olds, where 30 per cent of the men and 25 per cent of the women were overweight.

"Adopting public policies for children and adolescents is essential to prevent people from becoming obese," the health minister said.

He said a third of Brazilians consume either high fat foods or sugared soft drinks at least five times a week.

The study showed nearly 40 per cent of men and 22 per cent of women exercise regularly.

The study was based on 54,000 interviews of adults across Brazil from January to December 2011.

The highest obesity rate was reported in Macapa at 21.4 per cent, followed by Porto Alegre at 19.6 per cent. Sao Paulo reported a 15.5 per cent obesity rate while Rio de Janeiro came in at 16.5 per cent.