Lose weight the CUBAN way: Economic crisis triggered an average weight loss of 11lb and slashed the risk of heart disease and diabetesResearchers studied the effect of food and fuel shortages in early 1990s
These sparked a reduction in eating and large increases in physical activityReport showed benefits were seen in a relatively short period of timeBut as soon as the economy started to recover, citizens re-gained weightDeaths from diabetes and heart disease also soared
22:54 GMT, 9 April 2013
09:30 GMT, 10 April 2013
A country where economic crisis led to food and fuel shortages saw the average citizen lose 11lb and death rates from heart disease and diabetes fall considerably.
Researchers have studied the weight loss of people in
Cuba, where the collapse of the Soviet Union sparked a reduction in eating and large increases in
This resulted in an average weight loss of between 8-11lb – slashing deaths from heart disease by a third and halve deaths from type 2 diabetes, Spanish researchers have found.
Professor Manuel Franco, of the University of Alcala, Madrid, said: 'We found a population-wide loss of 4-5 kg in weight in a relatively healthy population was accompanied by diabetes mortality falling by half and mortality from coronary heart disease falling by a third.'
Cubans lost an average of 8lb per head over five years, after the country was plunged into crisis in the early 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union
The study, published online in the British Medical Journal, showed the benefits were seen in a relatively short period of time.
Heart disease is Britain's number one killer, with 94,000 people a year dying from it and 2.6 million living with it. About 75,000 people with diabetes die annually, accounting for about 15 per cent of all deaths.
The international team of researchers from Spain, Cuba and the U.S. said comparing disease rates over time can demonstrate the power of prevention and help identify key risk factors.
The researchers examined the association between population-wide body changes and diabetes incidence, prevalence and death rates from type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, cancer and all causes in Cuba between 1980 and 2010.
The country has a long tradition of public health and heart disease research, which provided the necessary data from national health surveys, cardiovascular studies, primary care chronic disease registries and vital statistics over three decades.
Cubans shop at a $1 stall in the mid 1990s at the height of economic turmoil. Food and fuel were in short supply, so citizens ate less and walked more
Four population-based surveys were used and data were available on height, weight, energy intake, smoking and physical activity. All participants were aged between 15 and 74.
Population-wide changes in energy intake and physical activity were accompanied by large changes in body weight.
Between 1991 and 1995, there was an
average 8lb (5kg) reduction, whereas between 1995 and 2010 a population-wide
weight 'rebound' of 19lb (9kg) was observed.
Smoking prevalence slowly decreased during the 1980s and 1990s and declined more rapidly in the 2000s.
The number of cigarettes consumed per
capita decreased during and shortly after the crisis, while diabetes
prevalence surged from 1997 onwards as the population began to gain
New cases decreased during the weight loss period but then increased until it peaked in the weight regain years.
In 1996, five years after the start of the weight loss period, there was an abrupt downward trend in death from diabetes.
As the economy slowly recovered, food intake increased and physical activity levels were reduced. In 2002, death rates returned to pre-crisis trends, diabetes deaths soared
This lasted six years during which energy intake gradually recovered and physical activity levels were reduced. In 2002, death rates returned to pre-crisis trends and a dramatic increase in diabetes death was observed.
Regarding heart disease and stroke death trends, there was a slow decline from 1980 to 1996 followed by a dramatic decline after the weight loss phase. These descending trends have halted during the weight regain phase.
Professor Franco said population science can give us the tools to combat diseases such as heart disease and diabetes and tackling unhealthy diet and physical inactivity can reduce the disease burden.
He also stressed the importance of promoting physical activity, including cycling and walking, as a means of transportation.
He added: 'So far, no country or regional population has successfully reduced the distribution of body mass index or reduced the prevalence of obesity through public health campaigns or targeted treatment programmes.'