Relative contribution of diet and physical activity to increased adiposity among rural to urban migrants in India: A cross-sectional study

by Sanjay Kinra, Poppy Alice Carson Mallinson, Jenny A. Cresswell, Liza J. Bowen, Tanica Lyngdoh, Dorairaj Prabhakaran, Kolli Srinath Reddy, Mario Vaz, Anura V. Kurpad, George Davey Smith, Yoav Ben-Shlomo, Shah Ebrahim


In common with many other low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), rural to urban migrants in India are at increased risk of obesity, but it is unclear whether this is due to increased energy intake, reduced energy expenditure, or both. Knowing this and the relative contribution of specific dietary and physical activity behaviours to greater adiposity among urban migrants could inform policies for control of the obesity epidemic in India and other urbanising LMICs. In the Indian Migration Study, we previously found that urban migrants had greater prevalence of obesity and diabetes compared with their nonmigrant rural-dwelling siblings. In this study, we investigated the relative contribution of energy intake and expenditure and specific diet and activity behaviours to greater adiposity among urban migrants in India.

Methods and findings

The Indian Migration Study was conducted between 2005 and 2007. Factory workers and their spouses from four cities in north, central, and south of India, together with their rural-dwelling siblings, were surveyed. Self-reported data on diet and physical activity was collected using validated questionnaires, and adiposity was estimated from thickness of skinfolds. The association of differences in dietary intake, physical activity, and adiposity between siblings was examined using multivariable linear regression. Data on 2,464 participants (median age 43 years) comprised of 1,232 sibling pairs (urban migrant and their rural-dwelling sibling) of the same sex (31% female) were analysed. Compared with the rural siblings, urban migrants had 18% greater adiposity, 12% (360 calories/day) more energy intake, and 18% (11 kilojoules/kg/day) less energy expenditure (P Conclusions

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We found that increased energy intake and reduced energy expenditure contributed equally to greater adiposity among urban migrants in India. Policies aimed at controlling the rising prevalence of obesity in India and potentially other urbanising LMICs need to be multicomponent, target both energy intake and expenditure, and focus particularly on behaviours such as dietary fat/oil intake, time spent on watching television, and time spent engaged in moderate or vigorous intensity physical activity.

Paper source
Plos Journal

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