Context: Prevalence of obesity and the metabolic syndrome is rapidly increasing in developing countries, leading to increased morbidity and mortality due to type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and cardiovascular disease.
Evidence acquisition: Literature search was carried out using the terms obesity, insulin resistance, the metabolic syndrome, diabetes, dyslipidemia, nutrition, physical activity, and developing countries, from PubMed from 1966 to June 2008 and from web sites and published documents of the World Health Organization and Food and Agricultural Organization.
Evidence synthesis: With improvement in economic situation in developing countries, increasing prevalence of obesity and the metabolic syndrome is seen in adults and particularly in children. The main causes are increasing urbanization, nutrition transition, and reduced physical activity. Furthermore, aggressive community nutrition intervention programs for undernourished children may increase obesity. Some evidence suggests that widely prevalent perinatal undernutrition and childhood catch-up obesity may play a role in adult-onset metabolic syndrome and T2DM. The economic cost of obesity and related diseases in developing countries, having meager health budgets is enormous.
Conclusions: To prevent increasing morbidity and mortality due to obesity-related T2DM and cardiovascular disease in developing countries, there is an urgent need to initiate large-scale community intervention programs focusing on increased physical activity and healthier food options, particularly for children. International health agencies and respective government should intensively focus on primordial and primary prevention programs for obesity and the metabolic syndrome in developing countries.