ODI Report: Future Diets

ODI Report: Future Diets

Tue 14 Jan 2014

Story by The Jamie Oliver Food Foundation (USA)

A report from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) puts the number of overweight and obese adults in developing countries at more than 900 million.

Diets are increasingly important in a world of economic growth and rising incomes. And two concerns, in particular, are emerging: the effect of diet on health; and the demands made by changing diets on agriculture.

The over-consumption of food, coupled with lives that are increasingly sedentary, is producing large numbers of people who are overweight and obese. In the past 30 years, the world has seen an explosion in overweight and obesity.

Globally the percentage of adults who were overweight or obese grew from 23% in 1980 to 34% in 2008, with alarming increases seen in the developing world. The numbers of people affected in the developing world more than tripled, from around 250 million people in 1980 to 904 million in 2008. By contrast, the number of people who were overweight or obese in high-income countries increased 1.7 times over the same period.

According to the report, overweight and obesity rates since 1980 have almost doubled in China and Mexico, and risen by a third in South Africa, which now has a higher rate than the UK.

The Nutrition Transition

Over the past 30 years – global dietary shifts have occurred across the world and while there are many regional variations there has generally be an increase in caloric sweeteners, refined carbs, ultra refined foods and decreases in legumes, fruit and vegetables consumption.
• Sugar and sweetener consumption has risen worldwide by more than a fifth per person from 1961 to 2009.
• Less than a third of countries are consuming less than the recommended top limit of 50g of sugar a day per person.
• The world's top sugar consumers include the US, Belgium, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Costa Rica and Mexico.

There has also been a growth in the retail sector leading to more convenience stores and supermarkets, which can increase the shift from fresh to processed food. Urbanisation and an increase in sedentary lifestyles have also had a role to play in these lifestyle shifts.

An increase in overweight and obesity brings with it an increased risk for many non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including certain types of cancer, diabetes, strokes and heart attacks. All of these put a huge burden on our public healthcare systems – which some countries facing the issues simply can not afford.

While we have been seeing this population shift happening for some time now, what has changed is that the majority of people who are now overweight or obese today can be found in the developing – this is now long just a western world problem.

At the same time, however, under-nourishment is still recognised to be a problem for hundreds of millions of people in the developing world, particularly children.

Some governments have managed to change diets for the better. South Korea has increased fruit and vegetable consumption through a publicity, social marketing and education campaign, including training of women to prepare traditional low-fat, high-vegetable meals. Denmark banned trans fats, which have made its McDonald's among the healthiest in the world. But much more needs to be done. Across the world, countries, communities and individuals are looking for effective policies to come into place which start to really tackle this growing epidemic, help make sure that the healthy option is the easy option, and ensure our future diets lead us back onto the right track.

Read the full report here, find out more about NCDs and efforts to reduce the prevalence of these diseases here and see what some countries are already doing here.

The Jamie Oliver Food Foundation (USA)


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