Thursday, January 13, 2005

The New Global Diet

In yet another example that globalization of 20th century trends extends to the waistline (i.e., urbanization, sedentary lifestyles, diet rich in sugars and carbohydrates, etc), the NYT reports that Brazil is now afflicted with obesity:

But the statistics show what nutritionists and doctors regard as undeniable proof of an alarming growth of obesity since the mid-1970's, when the survey was first done in its current form. As elsewhere around the world, the main culprits, they say, are an unbalanced diet and a sedentary lifestyle, with some variants that are particularly Brazilian.

Brazilians have, for example, a pronounced sweet tooth, perhaps natural in a country that is the world's largest exporter of sugar. People routinely sprinkle sugar on naturally sweet fruits like pineapple or papaya, and it sometimes seems that half the mass of a cafezinho, the espresso coffee consumed everywhere in the country, is sugar, not liquid.

"Brazil and the United States are the countries that have the highest levels of consumption of sugar in the world, accounting for about 19 percent of calories," said Carlos Augusto Monteiro, a nutritionist at the University of São Paulo who was a consultant to the government study. "Consumption of soft drinks, for example, has grown 400 percent in the last 30 years, and we think that could play an important role in Brazil's growing fatter."

In addition to incorporating increasing amounts of fatty, processed foods in recent years, the Brazilian diet is also unusually heavy in starches and other carbohydrates. A typical luncheon plate, especially in the countryside or in poor neighborhoods, will contain not only a small piece of meat and beans for protein but also rice, potatoes, pasta, bread and cassava too.

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