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Supersized Brazil: Obesity a growing health threat

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• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, Riogringa. The views expressed are the author's own.

While the United States may reign supreme as one of the world's fattest countries, epidemiologists warn that the obesity epidemic is growing in developing countries and represents a new public health threat in countries like Brazil. Given a burgeoning middle class, an expanding food industry, and rising sedentarism, Brazil is experiencing an epidemic that has the potential to worsen in the coming years.

First, given the strength of the economy and a growing population of consumers – particularly the new middle class – fast food restaurants and food conglomerates are moving in or expanding in Brazil. Brazil already has nearly 700 McDonald's restaurants, along with chains like Burger King and KFC. In the past few months, several fast food companies announced they're entering the Brazilian market, including Johnny Rockets, due to open 30 restaurants, and Carl's Jr., due to open 100 restaurants. Coca Cola, which is hugely popular in Brazil, sold R$17.7 billion ($8.7 billion USD) worth of 10.6 billion liters of soft drinks there in 2010. Coca Cola Brasil grew by 6 percent in the second quarter of 2012. The company plans to invest over R$14 billion ($6.9 billion USD) in Brazil over the next five years. Pepsi – which also produces snack food – doubled its Brazil business from 2006 to 2010. The company plans to do a major investment push in Brazil's northeast, which has an important portion of Brazil's growing consumer class.

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