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Snapshot of Brazil

Reversing the trend

A recent report released by the Brazil's Ministry of Health stated that nearly half (48.5%) of the Brazilian population was overweight, an increase from 42.7% in 2007.

A child eats feijoada, a traditional Brazilian stew. Photo: Flickr/agecombahia

The publication reports that the proportion of Brazilians who are obese also increased from 2006-2011, from 11.4% to 15.8%. The study, known as VIGITEL, was based on 54,000 interviews of adults across Brazil from January to December 2011.

“There is a tendency toward increased weight and obesity in the country. It's time to reverse the trend to avoid becoming a country like the United States,” said Brazilian Health Minister, Alexandre Padilha. “Now is the time to act to ensure we don't reach the levels of countries like the US, where more than 20% of the population is obese. Adopting public policies for children and adolescents is essential to prevent people from becoming obese.”

The Ministry partially blamed the rising obesity rates on Brazilians’ increased consumption of sugary soft drinks and high-fat foods. The government is coordinating with food companies to lower the content of fat and salt in their products.

More than three-fifths (63%) of Brazilian men between the ages of 35 and 45 are overweight, making that age/gender group the most overweight segment of the population. For women between 45 and 54, almost 56% are overweight. Among Brazilian youth (between the ages of 18 to 24), 30% of men and 25% of women are overweight. Overall, 52.6% of Brazilian men and 44.7% of women are overweight.

Food and exercise

According to the Health Ministry, over a third of the Brazilian population eats fatty meat in excess, 56.9% regularly drink whole milk and 29.8% drink soda and other carbonated beverages at least five times per week.

However, only 20.2% of Brazilians eat five or more kinds of fruits and vegetables per day, as recommended by the World Health Organization. The lack of exercise also contributes to the Brazilian population's excess weight. According to the study, only 39.6% of Brazilian men and 22.4% of women exercise regularly.


The percentage of Brazilian adults who claims to have been diagnosed with diabetes rose from 5.3% in 2006 to 5.9% in 2011. The increased prevalence of the disease especially among the male population, in which the percentage of adults diagnosed with diabetes rose from 4.4% in 2006 to 5.2%.

However, the percentage of men with the disease is below that of adult women, among whom the prevalence remained stable at 6%. According to the study, diabetes also increases as the age of the population: from 0.6% for those between 18 and 24 years, to 21.6% for those over 65 years. The Ministry of Health indicated that increasing the number of diabetics may be associated with growth of 28% in the prevalence of obesity in Brazil between 2006 and 2011.

However, the number of patients in public hospitals for diabetes decreased to 145, 869 in 2011 from 148, 452 in 2010. The study also showed that 22.7% of the adult population of Brazil are hypertensive, diagnosis is more common among women (25.4%) than men (19.5%).

The prevalence of overweight among Brazilian adults in Brazilian state capitals and Federal District was also recorded (see Figure 3). The highest obesity rate by city was reported in Macapa at 21.4%, followed by Porto Alegre a19.6%;Sao Paulo 15.5%; and Rio de Janeiro 16.5%.

Figure 1: Changes in obesity, overweight and genders between 2006-2011


Total population obese                              11.4%

Total population overweight                      42.7%

Men overweight                                            47.2%

Women overweight                                                 38.5%


Total population overweight                      48.5%

Men overweight                                            47.2%

Women overweight                                                 52.6%

Total population obese                              44.7%

Figure 2: Percentage of overweight population by selected ages


18-24             30%

25-34             55%

35-45             63%


18-24             25%

25-34             ??

45-54             56%

Figure 3: The prevalence of overweight among Brazilian adults in Brazilian state capitals and Federal District.