We all read articles about the obesity epidemic in the ‘developed countries’ like the US for instance. Gastric bands surgeries offered to overweight patients on the NHS (the UK’s National Health system) caused polemic discussions and we also have seen various campaigns aiming to tackle obesity. Obesity concerns have been on media for decades.
However, in emerging economies obesity (as well as the increase of overweight population) is a relatively new phenomenon. Countries became richer and also fatter. Not surprisingly, the reduction in unemployment rates and increase in disposable income played a big part in the emerging markets dietary and lifestyle changes.
A study published by Brazil’s Ministry of Health showed some worrying findings. Looking at the BRICS, Brazil has the third largest (52.5%) overweight population (those with BMI 25 or greater), only behind South Africa and Russia. Alarmingly, more than half of Brazil’s population has become overweight, comparing to 43% in 2006.
Now, Brazil’s obese population (those with BMI 30 or greater) compared to other Latin American countries, is one of lowest in the region. Worryingly enough, one quarter of the population of Chile is already obese.
In Brazil, the fast food market boomed in the last decade, with an average growth of 10% per year. In 2015, with the start of the country’s economic stagnation, fast-food chains are investing in new ways to attract those that somehow have been affected by it. McDonald’s have increased options on their ‘saver menu’ with the purpose of maintain market share in the country – Brazil is their 7th biggest market in the world.
Subway, which is the country’s leader in number of stores (1871 in 2014), has been investing hard in special offers like “Barato do dia” (Sub of the Day) and “Baratissimo” (loosely translated as ‘Super Cheap’). According to their national marketing manager, Leandro Florio, since February 2015 there has been an increase of 20% on the demand of these special priced subs.
It looks like the future of Brazil’s waistlines are pretty grim. In an interview to FutureFood2050, Walmir Coutinho – one of the leading Brazilian endocrinologists – expressed his concern about the obesity epidemic that has taken over Latin America and “if Brazil’s does not change its ways, it could be the most obese nation in the next 15 years”.