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Analysis of the impact of rising food prices on obesity in women across 31 low and middle-income countries

In this longitudinal study, published in the International Journal of Obesity, the authors examine whether changes in food prices are associated with changes in obesity prevalence among women in developing countries, and assess the effect of individual socioeconomic status (SES). Anthropometric data, including BMI, and country-level food price inflation from low and middle income countries (LMIC) was used from 296,000 non-pregnant adult women, over the period 2000 to 2014.

The researchers found a strong link between food price inflation and obesity in adult women in LMICs, and the relationship is consistently modified by individual SES. Regardless of indicator used, higher food price inflation was positively associated with obesity among women in top SES categories, but was flat or negative among women in low SES categories, averaging over time. In lower SES groups it’s hypothesized that this is a result of a relative lack of exposure to food pricing, due to them growing their own food. Educational differences appeared the strongest of all SES measures which is consistent with the literature on social determinants of obesity.

This response to food budget constraints is recognised by other comparisons of LMICs, showing that individuals greatly reduce fruit and vegetable intakes as the relative cost increases [2], and that only those in the highest socioeconomic groups increase caloric intake in response to rising food prices. As the international burden of obesity grows, it’s important to understand how economic fluctuations translate into behavioural changes

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