Poor economy tied to fewer diabetes deaths

Research from the University of Alcala in Madrid reveals that widespread weight loss during an economic crisis in Cuba led to declining death rates from diabetes and heart disease.

The death rates jumped right back up when the country recovered from the recession after 2002, researchers say.

Population-wide weight loss

Due to shortages in food and gas between 1991 and 1995, statistics show that more people walked or biked instead of driving, and they also ate less. The result was a population-wide weight loss averaging nine to 11 pounds during those four years. Diabetes death rates stabilized and then dropped 50 percent between 1996 and 2002, rising 40 percent from 2002 on.

The data present a "notable illustration of the potential health benefits of reversing the global obesity epidemic," the researchers wrote in BMJ.

Obesity rates back up

Obesity rates are currently back up in Cuba, exceeding where they were pre-crisis. And while heart disease and stroke rates also dipped during the crisis, they too are back on the rise.

Researchers note that the shift in health was "particularly dramatic" for diabetes mortality rates and that "a reduction in overweight and obesity would have major population-wide benefits."

Manuel Franco, professor at the University of Alcala, Madrid, notes the importance of public interventions to help promote physical activity as a means of transportation.

"So far, no country or regional population has successfully reduced the distribution of body mass index or reduced the prevalence of obesity through public health campaigns or targeted treatment programs," Franco wrote.

Source: Med Page Today

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