Gender differences in weight gain
Men and women are different when it comes to gaining weight, and men have a physiological and biological advantage when it comes to losing it. And well, statistics from WHO (World Heath Organisation) do show that more women of the world are obese (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m²), but interestingly, when it comes to just being overweight (BMI ≥ 25 kg/m²), more men are so.
Here’s a quick glance at some figures:
Men: 16.8% overweight and 1.1% obese.
Women: 15.2% are overweight and 1.4% are obese.
Men: 65.7% are overweight and 21.6% are obese.
Women: 61.9% are overweight and 24.2% are obese.
Men: 75% are overweight and 36.5% are obese.
Women: 72.6% are overweight and 41.8% are obese.
Men: 54.5% are overweight and 11.8% are obese.
Women: 44.9% are overweight and 11% are obese.
United Arab Emirates:
Men: 66.9% are overweight and 24.5% are obese.
Women: 69.7% are overweight and 39.4% are obese.
Men: 45.6% are overweight and 7.8% are obese.
Women: 34.7% are overweight and 6.6% are obese.
Men: 65.1 % are overweight and 21% are obese.
Women: 55.1% are overweight and 20.4% are obese.
Men: 52.7% are overweight and 12.9% are obese.
Women: 38.3% are overweight and 12.6% are obese,
Men: 64.5% are overweight and 22% are obese.
Women: 74.2% are overweight and 45.5% are obese.
Men: 21.9% are overweight and 2% are obese.
Women: 32.2% are overweight and 6% are obese.
Men: 27% of Japanese men are overweight and 1.8% are obese.
Women: 18.15 of the women are overweight and 1.5% are obese.
Men: 33.1% are overweight and 1.6% are obese.
Women: 24.7% of the women are overweight and 1.9% are obese.
As it’s the gender difference that I want to compare (not the prevalence of obesity which is dependent on many complex factors including socio-economic factors) let’s take another look at the statistics and see which country has the most significant gender differences.
In India for example, there are relatively fewer gender differences in weight. The percentile difference between overweight men and women is only 1.5%, and just .3% between obese men and women (check statistics given above). If one compares these percentile gender differences to those of other nations, the Indian gender differences are insignificant. What this means is that overweight and obesity is more or less equally divided between both sexes in India.
It’s a little startling to see statistics from the United Arab Emirates. The percentile difference between overweight UAE men and women is 2.8% (more women being overweight) but it is the percentile difference for obesity that is significant. It is a whopping 14.9% and again it is the women who lead here. This means that a greater percentage of UAE women are overweight and obese as compared to their men. Egyptian women fare worse as this is another place with wide gender differences when it comes to overweight and obesity, wider than that of the UAE. And like the UAE, in Egypt too it is the women who lead the score. 9.7% for overweight and 23.5% for obesity.
These statistics assume significance because in a large number of countries of the world, a higher percentage of the men are overweight, not the women, although a higher percentage of the women are obese in the rest of the world too. But few countries have the kind of ratios that say Egypt has.
As lifestyle factors play an important part in obesity, perhaps the lifestyle of the women is adding to this unhealthy trend. The UAE is a wealthy nation and keeping domestic workers is the practice there. Likewise in Egypt, although Egypt is not a wealthy country. But one wonders why Indian women are not overweight in greater numbers even though they are used to domestic workers? A recent three-year-long countrywide study in India on 4,621 women could perhaps give a clue. The study shows a significant rural-urban difference. It shows that two out of three women in urban India above the age of 35 was overweight but only one in three women in rural India above the age of age of 35 was so. According to the study, more of the urban women lead a sedentary lifestyle.
In most of the world more women are obese than men, even if more men are overweight. In the United States, the percentile difference between obese men and women is 5.3%, with more women being obese. In the United Kingdom the percentile difference between obese men and women is 2.6%, again with more women being obese. An interesting graph on obesity trends in the US.
Looks like the lifestyle of American men is changing as they are catching up with their women. Does this mean that American men will soon overtake their women when it comes to obesity? And is it because they are leading an increasingly sedentary lifestyle? Or are women becoming slimmer?
In some countries in western Europe the women seem slim as compared to their men. The percentage of obese men is more than the percentage of obese women and this goes against the trend in the rest of the world. In Sweden for example, the percentage of obese men is slightly more (.8%) than the percentage of obese women. Ditto in France (1.2%), Germany(.6%) and Italy (.3%) These percentages are small enough to be insignificant but to me they are significant because they go against the general trend. But why are more Swedish, German, Italian and French women slimmer than their American or British counterparts? Could they be more weight conscious?
I don’t have the answers and nor am I an expert on this subject. Just a little intrigued. You are welcome to add your thoughts.
Related Reading: Will human beings ever be satisfied with the quantity of food they get to eat?
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