Globally, nearly 2.3 billion overweight people, more than 150 million children are stunted, a new report shows, warning that undernutrition and obesity will affect generations.
Francesco Blanca, lead author of the report and director of WHO’s Nutrition for Health and Development Department, said: “We cannot just associate low-income countries with undernutrition, or focus only on obesity in high-income countries.
He said: “All forms of malnutrition have one thing in common – a failure to provide healthy, safe, affordable and sustainable food systems for all. Changing this will require action across the entire food system – —from production and processing to trade and distribution, pricing, marketing and packaging, to consumption and waste issues. All relevant policies and investments must be fundamentally re-examined.”
How to deal with it?
Eat more fruits and vegetables and less meat
The report recommends a high-quality diet to limit the spread of undernutrition and obesity, including implementing best breastfeeding practices during the first two years of a baby’s life; increasing fruits and vegetables in meals, reducing the proportion of meat, and avoiding foods rich in food. Foods containing sugar, saturated fat, trans fat and salt.
However, food systems in many countries are increasing the availability of ultra-processed foods, which are associated with overweight problems, and conversely, there are fewer markets for fresh foods. According to WHO, eating unhealthy foods increases the risk of non-communicable diseases such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, stroke and cardiovascular disease.
Wellness plans don’t help achieve your goals
The report notes that actions to address malnutrition have consistently failed to take into account key factors, including early life nutrition, diet quality, socioeconomic factors and the food environment.
Indeed, in low- and middle-income countries where the food environment is changing rapidly, some programs to address malnutrition may inadvertently increase people’s risk of obesity- and diet-related noncommunicable diseases.
Some examples of action to address malnutrition and obesity include improved prenatal care and breastfeeding practices, social welfare, and new agricultural and food systems policies with healthy diets as the main goal.
The authors of the report call on countries, international organizations and the private sector to invite new sectors of society, such as grassroots organizations, farmers and innovators, to tackle the double burden of malnutrition with a new attitude.
“Without profound food system transformation, the economic, social and environmental costs of inaction will hinder the growth of individuals and the development of societies for decades to come,” Dr Blanca said.