The purpose of this study was to analyse the determinants and consequences of the nutrition transition in Chile and describe the related health promotion policies.
Design and setting: This is a descriptive, population-based study including data on demographic, diet, nutrition and biomedical related variables. Data came from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the National Institute of Statistics (INE), the Ministries of Planning, Health and Education surveillance systems, and national surveys.
As malnutrition decreased during the 1980s, obesity increased rapidly in all age groups. In adults, currently about 25% of women are obese (body mass index > 30 kgm−2); particularly those from low socio-economic levels. Among pre-schoolers, obesity is now 10% while in 6-year-old children it is 17.5% (weight/height greater than two standard deviations (>2SD) of the World Health Organization reference). Nutritional risk factors are prevalent, diet is changing to a ‘Western diet’ with an increasing fat consumption, and sedentarianism is constant in all groups. High blood pressure (>140/90) is greater than 10% in adults. Diabetes is increasing in urban areas, including in the indigenous population, and more than 40% of adults have a cholesterol level of more than 200mgml−1.
Promotion of healthy lifestyles is the main strategy to cope with this situation, particularly changing behaviour in food habits, physical activity and psychosocial factors. Changes in lifestyles will not only allow the prolonged life expectancy to be of better quality, but also will favour a decrease in the morbidity and mortality from chronic diseases, mainly cardiovascular diseases.
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