Background: Migration to cities may increase cardiovascular disease risk factors in developing countries. We examined rural and urban individuals who were born in the same villages and shared similar childhood experiences.
Methods: Blood lipids and glucose, blood pressure, anthropometry, body composition, physical activity, and food, tobacco and alcohol consumption were examined in 161 men and 193 women, 19-29 years old, living in their village of birth (76 commuted to work in Guatemala City), and in 76 men and 43 women living in the city.
Results: Rural and urban women had similar prevalence of overweight (28%), elevated body fat (29.8 +/- 6.1%) and low physical activity (83%). Compared to rural men, more urban men were sedentary (79 versus 27%), and they had higher body fat (15.3 +/- 5.3% versus 13.3 +/- 5.7%), serum cholesterol (4.27 +/- 0.75 versus 3.90 +/- 0.70 mmol/l [165 +/- 29 versus 151 +/- 27 mg/dl]), low density lipoprotein [LDL]-cholesterol (2.66 +/- 0.72 versus 2.30 +/- 0.62 mmol/l [103 +/- 28 versus 89 +/- 24 mg/dl]) and total cholesterol/high density lipoprotein [HDL]-cholesterol ratio (4.6 +/- 1.0 versus 4.1 +/- 0.9). Commuters showed intermediate values. Women had higher serum cholesterol (4.43 +/- 0.80 mmol/l [171 +/- 31 mg/dl]) than men in rural and urban areas. Urban residents ate/drank more saturated fats, red meat and sweetened beverages, and less legumes.
Conclusions: High proportions of young Guatemalan women were overweight and sedentary. Migration to a city increased sedentarism and undesirable eating habits among men and women; men became fatter and their lipid profile worsened. Public health actions must address the prevention of emerging chronic diseases in countries still burdened by undernutrition and infections.