Objectives: We sought to update income-specific secular trends in obesity in Brazil to assess the hypothesis that the disease burden is shifting toward the poor.
Methods: We compared overall and income-specific obesity prevalence rates estimated for Brazilian men and women from national surveys conducted in 1975, 1989, and 2003. We calculated age-adjusted prevalence ratios to assess time trends.
Results: In the first 14-year period examined (1975-1989), obesity rates among men and women increased by 92% and 63%, respectively, and increases were relatively higher among individuals in lower income groups. In the second 14-year period (1989-2003), there were further increases in obesity among men, and again increases were larger among the poor. In this second period, the obesity rate remained virtually stable in the overall female population, but it increased by 26% among women in the 2 lower income quintiles and decreased by 10% among women in the 3 higher income quintiles.
Conclusions: The burden of obesity is shifting toward the poor and can no longer be considered a disease of the socioeconomic elite. Policymakers need to design policy and programs that reach all members of society, but especially the poor.