Background: The burden of obesity differs by socioeconomic status. We aimed to characterise the prevalence of obesity among adult men and women in Latin America and the Caribbean by socioeconomic measures and the shifting obesity burden over time. Methods: We did a cross-sectional series analysis of obesity prevalence by socioeconomic status by use of national health surveys done between 1998 and 2017 in 13 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. We generated equiplots to display inequalities in, the primary outcome, obesity by wealth, education, and residence area. We measured obesity gaps as the difference in percentage points between the highest and lowest obesity prevalence within each socioeconomic measure, and described trends as well as changing patterns of the obesity burden over time. Findings: 479 809 adult men and women were included in the analysis. Obesity prevalence across countries has increased over time, with distinct patterns emerging by wealth and education indices. In the most recent available surveys, obesity was most prevalent among women in Mexico in 2016, and the least prevalent among women in Haiti in 2016. The largest gap between the highest and lowest obesity estimates by wealth was observed in Honduras among women (21·6 percentage point gap), and in Peru among men (22·4 percentage point gap), compared with a 3·7 percentage point gap among women in Brazil and 3·3 percentage points among men in Argentina. Urban residents consistently had a larger burden than their rural counterparts in most countries, with obesity gaps ranging from 0·1 percentage points among women in Paraguay to 15·8 percentage points among men in Peru. The trend analysis done in five countries suggests a shifting of the obesity burden across socioeconomic groups and different patterns by gender. Obesity gaps by education in Mexico have reduced over time among women, but increased among men, whereas the gap has increased among women but remains relatively constant among men in Argentina. Interpretation: The increase in obesity prevalence in the Latin American and Caribbean region has been paralleled with an unequal distribution and a shifting burden across socioeconomic groups. Anticipation of the establishment of obesity among low socioeconomic groups could provide opportunities for societal gains in primordial prevention. Funding: None.
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