Past studies have suggested that, at a global level, urbanization is a key contributor to the soaring rates of obesity.Researchers have explained this pattern by hypothesizing that people living in urban areas eat more unhealthful, highly processed foods and live less physically active lifestyles.However, a major new study — the results of which appear in the journal Nature — now turns this idea on its head by showing that obesity rates across the world have grown more rapidly in rural areas than in urban areas.
In the study, researchers from the Imperial College London in the United Kingdom led a global team of more than 1,000 specialists. Together, they analyzed the health data of more than 112 million adults from 200 countries and territories, covering a period of 32 years from 1985 to 2017.
The team sourced these data from 2,009 population-based studies that made their participants' height and weight measurements available. From these two values, it is possible to calculate a person's body mass index (BMI), which allows healthcare professionals to determine whether or not the individual has obesity.