Cudos to the BBC and Nature magazine for highlighting the critical role of poor food choices in driving poor health and sustainability of our food systems. This BBC piece summarizes the chilling statements in a commentary in Nature, the #1 general science journal in the world.
In the commentary, leading scientists make the point that while global hunger remains a critical problem, we also need to recognize the impact of poor diets and excessive caloric intake to human health around the world.
Of 129 countries with data on hunger and malnutrition, 57 reported problems with both. Scientists estimate than 1 in 3 people have very poor diets. Worldwide, almost 800 million people are hungry, while over 2 billion are overweight or obese. This is, in turn, leading to an increase in chronic health problems like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. As one scientist puts it, “instead of feeding the world, we need to think about nourishing the world.”
A now infamous USDA press release issued as part of the “What We Eat in America” series made the same point — citizens in the U.S. are “overfed and undernourished.”
It is beyond ironic that the U.S. has one of the most diverse and high quality food supplies in the world, and spends more per capita on health care than any country in the world, yet in the U.S., “public health” is declining and bound to continue to do so — unless we change dramatically what we eat.
While most people understand in general how they should modify their diets to promote health, this knowledge too infrequently overcomes the urge to stick with favorite foods that contain bad fats, added sugars, salt, and very little of the nutrients that sustain health. Watch future posts on Hygeia Analytics for more on how science can reinforce changes in consumer behavior.
Mark Kinver, “Diet is global food policy’s elephant in the room,”, December 1, 2016, BBC News
Haddad et al, “A new global research agenda for food,” 2016, Nature, 540:30–32.