Brazilians Get Taller and Fatter, Die More from Diabetes, Less from Heart Diseases

Brazilian getting bigger all over Brazilian women stay slim, while men are getting fatter and fatter. Mal-nutrition and child mortality are falling, but diabetes is on the rise. This is one of the conclusions of a study released this Thursday, November 19, by the Brazilian Health Ministry, portraying the state of the population's physical condition.

The conclusions are, for the most part, positive. Here, a quick summary of the main conclusions:

* Weight – Around 43% of those over 18 living in state capitals are overweight. The reality in smaller cities and in the countryside is similar. The Ministry blames unhealthy eating habits and the reduction in physical activities.

Boys from 10 to 19 years-old increased their Body Mass Index in 82.2% in only 29 years. The girls of the same age had a growth of 70.3% in their BMI. The good news: women kept their weight stable since the 90s. Obesity is specially intense among poorest populations.

* Height – Brazilians are growing fast – women twice as fast as men. The average male raised 1.9 centimeters (0.75 inches) and is, in average, 1.70 meters (5.57 feet) tall. The average woman grew 3.3 centimeters (1.29 inches) to 1.58 meters ( 5.18 feet).

* Diabetes – The growth of obesity is raising the number of deaths from diabetes, mainly among men older than 40. On the other hand, less women under 20 and 39 are diabetic.

* Cardiovascular health- Less Brazilians are dying of heart diseases. It fell 20.5% between 1990 and 2006. The Health Ministry believes this is because the population is more educated and there is a growing effort to prevent those diseases.

* Mal-nutrition – The number of undernourished kids under five fell 50% in  10 years – from 13.4% of the total to 6.7%, in 2006. According to the Health Ministry, mal-nutrition might be totally eliminated in Brazil in a period of 10 to 15 years.

* Diarrhea – The number of kids under one year old that die of diarrhea – normally related to the fact part of the population doesn't have access to treated water and is exposed to uncollected sewage – fell 93.9% in 25 years. It used to be the second main cause of infant mortality in the country. Now it is the fourth (most deaths are associated to congenital diseases or postpartum problems). In 1990, the index of child mortality used to be 47.1 deaths per thousand babies born alive. In 2007, it was around 19.3 deaths – a reduction of 59,7%.

This is a very interesting evolution. Nevertheless, it is hard to understand how the cardiovascular diseases were controlled, while overweight and diabetes are not. Could you come up with some logical explanation?

Brazilian born, French citizen, married to an American, Regina Scharf is the ultimate globetrotter. She graduated in Biology and Journalism from USP (Universidade de São Paulo) and has worked for Folha de S. Paulo, Gazeta Mercantil and Veja magazine as well as Radio France Internationale. Since 2004 she has lived in Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the US. She authored or co-authored several books in Portuguese on environmental issues and was honored by the 2002 Reuters-IUCN Press award for Latin America and by the 2004 Prêmio Ethos. You can read more by her at Deep Brazil – www.deepbrazil.com.

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