Obesity and poverty: the apparent paradox. A study among women from the Rocinha slum, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Vanessa Alves Ferreira Rosana Magalhães About the authors

In recent decades the Brazilian population has undergone intense changes in its nutritional conditions, especially with an increase in obesity. According to the National Survey on Health and Nutrition in 1989, 32.0% of adults were overweight. However, distribution of the problem is not homogeneous. The highest prevalence occurs among poor women in the Southeast. Understanding this apparent paradox requires the search for approaches capable of overcoming simplistic interpretations about eating practices. Thus, the objective of this study was to understand obesity combined with poverty, focusing beyond economic determinants on constraints of a cultural and symbolic nature. From this perspective, the study analyzed the daily lives of poor women who used a Municipal Health Center and resided in the Rocinha slum in Rio de Janeiro. The results showed the complexity of the relationship between obesity and poverty. Cultural and material life aspects as well as different concepts of eating and the body proved to be fundamental elements for the analysis of the multiple facets of obesity in Brazil.

Poverty; Obesity; Nutritional Status; Food Habits

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