Economic Crisis Kept Cubans Healthier and Biking

Ask any Cuban who lived through the "special period" in the 1990s, and they will tell you that it was a terribly difficult time where everyone scrambled just to find enough to eat. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the country went into a severe economic crisis as Soviet subsidies dried up, generating severe food and fuel shortages. But there was a silver lining to the lack of supplies: people were forced to slash their calorie intake and to travel on foot or bicycle.

According to a study published last week in the American Journal of Epidemiology, between 1997 and 2002, deaths in Cuba caused by diabetes declined by 51%, coronary heart disease mortality dropped 35% and stroke mortality by 20%. Obesity in the southern coastal city of Cienfuegos fell from 14.3% in 1991 to 7.2% in 1995.

Another interesting tidbit: now that the economy has relatively recovered, obesity is rebounding. Around 30% of adult Cubans are now overweight and a quarter have a tendency toward obesity, according to a government study. :: Via The Guardian

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