Obesity on the increase globally
According to a report entitled Future Diets by the British think tank, sovaldi the Overseas Development Unit, there has been a dramatic increase in the numbers of overweight or obese people in the past 30 years. Previously considered a problem in richer countries, the biggest rises are in middle income countries and the developing world.
More fat, more meat, more sugar and bigger portions – have led to a looming health crisis. One in three adults in the world (1.46 billion) were overweight or obese in 2008, up by 23% since 1980. However in the developing world, the number of overweight people has more than tripled, from 250 million to 904 million. In high-income countries the numbers increased by 1.7 times over the same period.
Diets are changing wherever incomes are rising in the developing world, with a marked shift from cereals and tubers to meat, fats and sugar, as well as fruit and vegetables. While the forces of globalisation have led to a creeping homogenisation in diets, their continued variation suggests that there is still scope for policies that can influence the food choices that people make.
There seems to be little will among public and leaders to take the determined action that is needed to influence future diets, but that may change in the face of the serious health implications. Combinations of moderate measures in education, prices and regulation may achieve far more than drastic action of any one type.
An indicator of changing diets is the increasing consumption of sugar and sweeteners, which has risen by over 20% per person between 1961 and 2009. Packaged foods have contributed very much to this trend with additional products such as high fructose corn syrop and salt adding to the problem.
However the report finds that there is room for hope. It quotes the example of South Korea which has seen fruit consumption triple per head and vegetable consumption increase by ten percent between 1980 and 2009 due to government campaigns.
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