Obesity is not just a first-world problem. The World Health Organization has issued a report highlighting obesity as a global health issue. More than 42 million children under the age of five are considered overweight, with 83% of those children living in developing countries. According to the World Health Organization, “the number of overweight children in Africa has almost doubled in the past 20 years.”
The issue of obesity is paradoxically related to the problem of undernutrition. In many cases, both conditions stem from a lack of funds for purchasing nutritious foods. Undernutrition occurs when a person cannot afford enough food to sustain a healthy weight. Obesity, on the other hand, occurs when a person can only afford poor quality foods, often ones that are calorically dense but lacking in healthy nutrients.
Both obesity and undernutrition have negative consequences for the human body. Undernutrition leads to a weakening of the immune system, resulting in an increase in the frequency and duration of infections contracted by an individual. Obesity leads to more chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer.
The new report from the World Health Organization emphasizes the importance of ensuring that a proper diet not only contains an adequate number of calories but is also nutritious. This is especially true for infants and young children. A diet that does not deliver “a sufficient amount of quality food can lead both to poor growth and to excess weight gain.”
The World Health Organization states that “many low and middle-income countries are neglecting overweight and obesity as major health threats.” Hopefully, with the new publicity that the World Health Organization has placed on the issue, these countries will understand the health risks at hand and work to end all forms of malnourishment.
To learn more about the worldwide obesity epidemic, and how obesity is related to a country’s GDP and happiness levels, check out this interactive map from the organization’s Desirable Body.
– Jordan Kline