29 April 2010
By Kounteya Sinha
New Delhi, India
Villagers Moving To Urban Areas For Jobs More likely To Be Obese, Diabetic Than Siblings Left Behind: Study
Scientists from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, AIIMS, University of Bristol and Centre for Chronic Diseases Control in Delhi found that people moving from villages to cities in India in search of work were more likely to end up obese and suffer from diabetes compared to their siblings who stayed behind. After studying 6,510 people from north, central and south India, researchers said that half of the migrants who moved to urban locales packed on an additional 7 kg by the tenth year of their relocation. This excessive weight gain that substantially increased risks of diabetes was because of “eating more calories than they needed for the energy burnt up in physical activity”. Migrants were found to eat more fat than rural people. And, therefore, this community and urban participants were three to four times more likely to be obese than their rural counterparts and more than two times more likely to be diabetic.
Migrants were almost twice more likely to have hypertension and have higher blood sugar than villagers. To examine how migration impacted on obesity and diabetes in India, British and Indian scientists interviewed rural migrants and their spouses working in urban factories. Each migrant worker or spouse asked a sibling still living in the rural area from where they hailed to join the study. Nonmigrant factory workers and their siblings from urban areas were also recruited. Participants answered questions about their diet and physical activity and had their blood sugar and body mass index measured.
Urbanites and migrants had similar levels of obesity (41.9% and 37.8% respectively), in comparison with 19% in rural areas. Diabetes also affected urban and migrant men equally (13.5% and 14.3% respectively) compared with 6.2% in rural men. The pattern of obesity and diabetes were similar in women.
Lead investigator Shah Ebrahim, director of the South Asia Network for Chronic Disease in New Delhi, said, “This increase of hypertension, diabetes and obesity in migrant populations compared to that of their families still living in rural India is because they eat more of everything as they have a higher expendable income.” Researchers made some interesting points. They found that it wasn’t a western diet that was to blame for this rise in diabetes rates but just ordinary everyday Indian food.
President of Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) Dr K S Reddy said, “This study makes a vital finding–migrants show diabetes and obesity rates which are intermediate (just between rates of permanent urban residents and rural residents.) This means that migrants acquire a risk which is between place of origin and place of adoption. Therefore, now we know that their next generation will manifest the total urban risk.” Dr Reddy added, “The study proves that influence of urbanisation and change of living habits have far greater influence than genetic susceptibility as a determinant of risk of acquiring or manifesting diabetes.
While urbanisation is likely to be a progressive phenomenon, we need to ensure that healthy living habits are promoted and supported so that rates of diabetes do not rise.”
Diabetes has increased in urban areas of India from 5% to 15% between 1984 and 2004. In rural India, it is around 6%. At present, India is home to over 50 lakh diabetics.
- After studying 6,510 people from north, central and south India, Indian and UK experts found that half of the migrants who moved to urban areas packed on an extra 7 kg by the tenth year of their relocation. This weight gain that increased the risk of diabetes is because of eating more calories than needed
- Migrants were three to four times more likely to be obese than their rural counterparts and more than two times more likely to be diabetic
- Migrants were almost twice more likely to have hypertension and have higher blood sugar than villagers
- Diabetes has increased in urban areas of India from 5% to 15% between 1984 and 2004. In rural India, it is around 6%.