From hunger to being overweight in the same life: the new panorama of nutrition | Future Planet

Photography is consolidated. The world is moving towards a scenario in which the numbers of hungry people are timidly decreasing and the number of overweight people is increasing at a worrying rate. The largest annual nutrition report highlights data such as that there is a “staggering” number of 677.6 million obese adults in the world and that 149 million children under the age of five are stunted. The experts issue two warnings: you have to look at the data beyond the national averages, so that they do not mask inequalities within borders, and the ultra-processed are reaching places where they were previously unthinkable. The study has been carried out by an independent group of 18 experts from universities, health institutes, foundations and UN agencies.

“This report shows a more detailed reality in which we no longer only analyze the distinctions between countries, but also at the regional level. There are people who are falling behind within their own borders while others move forward,” emphasizes Camila Corvalán, an epidemiologist. Chilean specialist in nutrition and one of the authors of the study. That distinction between an underdeveloped world full of hungry people and another rich one, with overweight citizens, is blurred. We can now find malnourished populations in middle-income and overweight countries in poor countries.

Research is not quantitative, but qualitative. That is, it collects statistics, studies and research already prepared to examine the complete photograph. A panorama that was analyzed before the coronavirus crisis. “The food system cannot be understood separately from what is happening, because it reflects the same imbalances that we are seeing with the pandemic. If a body is not well fed and with the necessary nutrients, it will respond worse to the disease. And if Furthermore, health systems are precarious, the level of vulnerability increases, “Corvalán points out.

The study includes 150 countries throughout the world among which Spain is not found, since only those with significant levels of three indicators are analyzed: acute, chronic malnutrition and overweight. For this reason, 50 countries are left out, almost all of them with high incomes. This is a report that has been carried out since the first world nutrition for development summit was held in 2013 and is promoted by governments, international organizations, philanthropic foundations and other entities.

The greatest disparities are observed in countries such as Nigeria, Indonesia or India. Huge territories in which many contexts coexist under the same umbrella. On the other side of the coin, countries like Peru, Algeria or Egypt show great progress in reducing inequalities. Given these distinctions, specialists ask themselves a question: does it make sense to apply the same policy at the national level?

Eggs in Burkina Faso

Inequality no longer marks only access to food, but the diet is truly varied. The report provides another interesting fact: the same person can suffer from malnutrition and, years later, obesity. “This is explained because in its first years, it has not received necessary nutrients or, even, its mother has not ingested them during the pregnancy. And later it does not have access to healthy food either, but to ultra-processed foods or a little varied diet”, Corvalán points out . Since 2010, overweight among children and adolescents has increased from 10.3% to 19.2% among boys, and from 10.3% to 17.5% among girls.

Inequality no longer marks only access to food, but the diet is truly varied. The report indicates that the same person can suffer malnutrition and, years later, obesity

Exemplifies it Professor Derek Headey: “The calories in eggs in Burkina Faso, for example, are about 15 times more expensive than those in starchy staples like corn or rice, while the calories in eggs in the United States are only 1.9 times. More expensive. In sub-Saharan Africa, eggs, fresh milk and infant cereals are prohibitively expensive for the poor, although fish is relatively affordable. “

“There is still little data on the role of processed foods and sugary beverages in the diets of low- and middle-income countries. We do have industry sales data, and shed light on how the purchase of these products is changing in all over the world. Sales are increasing modestly or decreasing in many high-income countries, but growing rapidly in developing countries, “experts say in this report.

Dr. Corvalán points out that, in this globalized world, ultra-processed industries reach places that were previously impossible. One of the research included in the analysis shows that Kenyans who shop in supermarkets instead of traditional stalls are 7% more likely to develop overweight. “For this reason, we stress that in those countries where the legislation is more lax and there are fewer controls, the governments must become more involved and establish more quality controls,” he concludes.

Other data

  • The average global intake of salt for adults (over 25 years) is estimated at 5.6 grams daily. It is slightly higher in men (5.8) than in women (5.3).
  • The blood pressure of 1,130,000 adults has increased. This affects more men (597, 4 million) than women (529.2 million).
  • Diabetes affects 422.1 million over 18 years of age.
  • Infant and young child feeding practices remain poor. Less than half (44.4%) of all newborns breastfeed within the first hour of birth (known as early onset), while only 42.2% of babies younger than six months of age are breastfeeding .
  • About two thirds (69.7%) of children aged 12 to 15 months and less than half (43.9%) of children aged 20 to 23 months are breastfed. When it comes to solid food, only 69.5% of babies six to eight months old eat solid food.

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