More than half of the Brazilian population is overweight

Unpublished data from the Ministry of Health reveal that, for the first time, the percentage of overweight people exceeds more than half of the Brazilian population. The Vigitel 2012 survey (Surveillance of Risk and Protective Factors for Chronic Diseases by Telephone Survey) shows that 51% of the population (over 18 years) is above the ideal weight. In 2006, the rate was 43%. Among men, overweight reaches 54% and among women, 48%.

The unpublished study also reveals thatobesityhas grown in the country, reaching the percentage of 17% of the population. In 2006, when data began to be collected by the Ministry, the rate was 11%. The increase affects both the male and female population. In the first edition of the survey, 11% of men and 11% of women were obese. Currently, 18% of women are obese. Among men, obesity is 16%.

The study portrays the habits of the population and is an important instrument to develop public health policies and stimulate healthy habits. In this edition, 45,400 people were interviewed in all capitals and in the Federal District, between July 2012 and February 2013.

Health Minister Alexandre Padilha said the data serve as a warning for the whole society to articulate itself to control the increase in obesity and overweight in the country. “The data reinforces that the time is now. If we do not take – society as a whole, family members, work, government agents – the necessary measures, if we do not act now, we run the risk of reaching levels of obesity such as those in Chile and the United States. That’s why we have to act strongly,” he said.

FEEDING– Although obesity is related to genetic factors, there is an important significant influence of sedentary lifestyle and inadequate eating patterns in the increase of Brazilian indices. A strong ally in the prevention of chronic non-communicable diseases, the consumption of fruits and vegetables is being left aside by a good part of Brazilians.

Only 22.7% of the population ingest the daily rate recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO), of five or more shares per day. Another indicator that worries is the excessive consumption of saturated fat: 31.5% of the population do not dispense fatty meat and more than half (53.8%) consume whole milk regularly. Soft drinks also have reliable consumers – 26% of Brazilians drink this type of drink at least five times a week.

STAGES OF LIFE– If in the age group between 18 and 24 years, 28% of the population is above the ideal weight, the proportion almost doubles in the age group from 35 years to 44 years, reaching 55%. The percentage of obesity follows this growth and more than doubles when compared to the two periods: 7% to 19%, respectively. Over the years, Brazilians also tend to decrease the practice of physical activity: 47% of young people aged 18 to 24 years exercise regularly. And between 35 and 44 years, the rate drops to 31%.

Vigitel 2012 also shows that the aging of the population positively reflects on the brazilian’s diet. If between 18 and 24 years of age more than half of Brazilian men eat meat with fat regularly (48%), this rate drops to 27% among those who have passed 65 years. The phenomenon is repeated with the consumption of soda. Among young people aged between 18 and 24 years, 36% reported taking the drink regularly. At 65, the percentage drops to less than a third, standing at 12%.

On the other hand, there is an increase in the consumption of fruits and vegetables in the upper age groups. Between 18 and 24 years, 17% eat five shares/day and 24% five weekly shares. At 65 years, the percentages increase to 28% and 46%, respectively.

SCHOOLING– Vigitel 2012 also allows to know the habits of Brazilians according to gender and schooling. Fruits and vegetables are regularly present on the menu of 45% of Brazilians who have completed at least 12 years of study. The percentage reduces to 29% among people who studied up to a maximum of eight years.

If we take into account the recommendation of the World Health Organization (WHO) of 400 grams of fruit and vegetables daily, the proportions go to 31% for those who have 12 years or more of schooling and 18% for those who have not finished elementary school or have less than eight years of schooling.


Saturated fat is also more common on the table of people with less education. Among the population with higher education, the registered percentages are below the national average, with 27% and 47%, respectively.

The research also reveals that 45% of the population with more than 12 years of study practice some type of physical activity (in their free leisure time). The percentage decreases to less than a quarter of the population (21%) for those who studied up to eight years. Men (41%) are more active than women (26%). The frequency of physical exercises during leisure time among women with more than 12 years of study (37%) is the only indicator of the female population that is above the national average (33%).

For the Secretary of Health Surveillance of the Ministry of Health, Jarbas Barbosa, as Vigitel pointed out lower frequencies of obesity and overweight among people with more years of study, the growing increase in schooling of Brazilians registered in recent years may represent an expectation positive in relation to the control of these risk factors. “From 2000 to 2010, the trend was a huge increase in the educational level. It is an important condition for slowing down the growth of obesity and overweight,” he said.

FIGHTING OBESITY– Obesity, sedentary lifestyle and poor diet are risk factors for the development of chronic diseases. One of the objectives of the Strategic Action Plan for Combating Chronic Noncommunicable Diseases (NCDs), launched in 2011, is to stop the growth in the proportion of Brazilian adults who are overweight or obese.

In March, the Ministry of Health created the Primary Care Care Line for overweight and other risk factors associated with overweight and obesity up to care in specialized services. Primary Care provides different types of treatment and follow-up to the user, which also includes psychological care.

The overweight person (BMI equal to or greater than 25) may be referred to a branch of the Academy of Health to perform physical activities and to a Family Health Support Center (NASF) to receive guidance for a healthy and balanced diet. Currently, 77% of the 2,040 NASFs have nutritionists; 88.6% with psychologists and 50.4% with physical education teachers. The evolution of treatment must be monitored by one of the 39,200 Basic Health Units (UBS), present in all Brazilian municipalities.

The Academy health program is the main strategy to induce an increase in the practice of physical activity in the population. So far, R 390 million have already been passed on. The initiative provides for the implementation of poles with infrastructure, equipment and qualified professionals to guide body practices, physical activities and leisure. Currently, there are more than 2,800 centers qualified for construction across the country and another 155 pre-existing projects that were adapted and funded by the Ministry of Health.

Minister Padilha highlighted the importance of investing in and expanding the Health Academy Program to improve habits and increase physical activity among Brazilians. Therefore, it will discuss with municipal and state health secretaries the expansion of this program.

The Ministry of Health also invests in preventive actions to avoid obesity in children and adolescents, such as the Health at School Program (PSE), which this year is open to municipalities and starts serving kindergartens and preschools. More than 50,000 schools participate in the program.

Another measure is the Ministry’s partnership with the National Federation of Private Schools to distribute 18,000 Manuals for Healthy School Canteens as an incentive for less caloric and more nutritious snacks. The Ministry also maintains an agreement with the industry to reduce the sodium content in foods. The voluntary agreement provides for a gradual reduction of salt in 16 categories of common foods on Brazilian tables, including the famous French bread.

OPTIMAL WEIGHT ASSESSMENT – BodyMass Index (BMI) is a way to know the nutritional status of the individual. To calculate it, simply divide the weight in kilograms by the square height into meters (BMI = weight / height x height). BMI is just an indication to find out if you are at the ideal weight. Other factors such as gender, age, fitness should be taken into account.

Jeanne Kenney
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I’m a stylist trainer, a content creator, and an entrepreneur passion. Virgo sign and Pisces ascendant, I move easily between my dreams, the crazy world I want, and my feet on the ground to carry out my projects.

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