(HealthDay News) – The transition toward an information/knowledge-based society has increased the worldwide prevalence of obesity, according to a report, Waistlines of the World: The Effect of Information and Communications Technology on Obesity, published online Aug 21 by the Milken Institute.

Anusuya Chatterjee, PhD, and Ross C DeVol, from the Milken Institute in Santa Monica, CA, examined the association between knowledge-based technology, measured as the level of investment in information and communications technology (ICT), and the prevalence of obesity in 27 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries during the period 1988–2009.

The researchers observed a causal relationship between ICT investment and the prevalence of obesity. The obesity rate increased an average of 1.4% for every 10% increase in ICT investment as a proportion of gross capital formation; this represented about 4.2 million people in a country the size of the United States. The increase was calculated using direct effects of less strenuous work and more sedentary behavior (1%) and the indirect effect of increased calorie consumption during screen-time activity (0.4%). For countries with a high ICT investment rate, a 0.2% rise in obesity could be prevented with a 1% increase in physically active people. Recommendations to prevent the obesity included financial and other incentives from employers; development of policies and programs to encourage walking and physical activity, including infrastructure to induce biking; advancement of health literacy; and local community initiatives.

“Increased prevalence of obesity in emerging countries with large populations, such as China and India, could dwarf the rise in associated diseases and medical costs witnessed in the United States and other parts of the developed world,” DeVol said in a statement. “Pre-emptive strikes are necessary to avoid this outcome.”

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