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Mini-review: Obesity in Caribbean Youth

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Objective: Our focus was on the determination of the growing number of youths of every race and ethnicity, diagnosed with obesity and its co-morbidities in the Caribbean. We reviewed the causes and strategies to combat obesity, and the implications of the fast food industry in enabling the escalation of obesity.

Methods: We consulted several databases such as PubMed, MEDLINE, the Obesity Gene Map Database, and the USEPA Toxicity Reference Database. Organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) were used as information sources.

Results: Transgenerational effects and triggers like obesogens, pathogens, environmental stress, antibiotics and gut microbiota are some of the causes of obesity, and some of these triggers are imprinted epigenetically early in embryonic development, leading to lifelong obesity. With an estimated population of 42 million in the Caribbean, the economic cost of obesity, including medical, absenteeism, presenteeism, insurance, disability, direct and indirect cost, was estimated at 68.5 billion USD with 88.2 million quality-adjusted life years lost.

Conclusion: Genome-wide association studies have established that genetics play a role in the aetiology of this "non-communicable" disease. While the development of personalized interventions according to genotype is futuristic, we must focus on effective nutrition and physical education (PE) classes in schools and establishing monitoring programmes using simple tools such as scales and tape measures as suggested intervention. A Pigovian tax to control the fast food industry is mandatory. Nevertheless, lifestyle adjustment, including alterations in diet and increased physical activity, continues to be a sound recommendation.

25 Mar, 2015
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e-Published: 01 Apr, 2015
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