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Nutrients for All
The world is presently facing a nutritional crisis. Over 2 billion people across the globe are malnourished. Both poor and rich countries alike are suffering from a nutrient crisis. Over a third of the United States population is suffering from obesity. Nutrients for All is an initiative to help repair this nutritional problem by carrying out a design called the nutrient value chain, which is the link between soil, farm, food and people.

Obesity is linked to diabetes and heart disease, which are growing problems. Recent studies show that there is a link between pregnant women suffering from malnourishment, which may cause obesity later in life. Access to the foods needed for proper nourishment has become a global problem. Many developing countries are living on nutrient-less subsidized diets.

Bill Drayton, founder of Ashoka, is working with Nutrients for All to help fight major social, environmental and economic concerns. Ashoka is a global network that whose goal is to bring these innovative ideas around the world.

Ashoka and other organization leaders from around the world are putting unconventional agricultural and management techniques to the test to help fight the global need for proper nutrients. These organizations implement plans that enrich soils in ways that nourish both crops and local ecological systems. This helps nourish communities and produce the right foods to farm. There are many factors that Ashoka and Nutrients for All entails for success.

The Nutrients for All soil plan includes reducing topsoil erosion, providing nutrient-rich food for local, regional and global supply chains, stabilizing and increasing recharge of groundwater and watersheds and reducing pollution and sanitation problems from industrial and residential sources.

These factors create a better understanding of soil management, and are used to help strengthen developing countries‘ economies and the well-being of those people.

The transformations of the economy provides proof that the Nutrients for All is a successful and innovative plan. Communities are more prepared for weather and natural disasters. Human vitality increases and communities share a lack of diseases across the board. More economic and food choices are brought to each community where Nutrients for All has been placed.

Nutrients for All wants to engage women farmers to produce not only for their household, but as a means to increases household income. A study performed by Ashoka staff shows that for a household with female farmers, the income and well-being increases 11 times.

One way we can take action to help get Nutrients for All’s message out is to empower others with new information. Either by being a consumer or practitioner, providing this information about nutrient conscious decisions for not only yourself, but for those around you, benefits everyone.

Help from sources like Nutrients for All can help change not only the way we eat, but the way we live. The evidence of the link between health and food is shown in the rising rates of cardiovascular disease and even cancer.

– Rachel Cannon

Sources: Nutrients for All, Nutrients for Life

global obesity
Olivier De Schutter, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, recently stated that obesity has become a bigger threat to global health than tobacco use.

Believing that there should be stricter regulations on consuming unhealthy foods, De Schutter gave a speech during the World Health Organization’s (WHO) annual summit and expressed concern that the world has not been actively tackling the issue of obesity. The WHO established the Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health 10 years ago, but the global obesity epidemic is still expanding. Diabetes, heart disease and other obesity-induced health complications have become more prevalent as a result. To counter the growing issue of global obesity, De Schutter declared, “a bold framework convention on adequate diets must now be agreed.”

Many international groups agree with De Schutter’s comments. Though the Food and Drink Federation has stated that the food industry is making clear efforts to provide healthier meal options, organizations like Consumer International and the World Obesity Federation are demanding the adoption of compulsory guidelines for the food and drink industry to follow. In 2005, the number of global deaths caused by obesity and being overweight was 2.6 million. The same figure had risen to 3.4 million by 2010.

The proposed rules include reducing the levels of sodium, saturated fat and sugar in various foods. Artificial trans-fats were recommended to be completely removed from all food and drink products in the next five years. Organizations have also asked for improved meals in hospital and schools, stricter guidelines for food advertising and increased efforts to educate the public about healthy eating. Governments could help control the global obesity issue as well by introducing taxes, changing licensing controls, funding new research projects and reviewing the prices of different food items.

If implemented, these new guidelines would be at the “highest level of global agreement.” In contrast to the current practice of “opting out” of imposed regulations on the food industry, governments would be required to enforce them. Dr. Ian Campbell, the founder of the United Kingdom’s National Obesity Forum, says that the proposed recommendations are within reason. “The inescapable fact is obesity is killing on a massive scale and only action from governments to tackle head-on the fundamental causes of obesity will lead to any meaningful decreases.”

Obesity has long been linked to poverty. The majority of overweight and obese people can be found in developing rather than developed countries. North Africa, the Middle East and Latin America have nearly the same percentage of obese people as Europe does.

Currently, people living far below the poverty line rely on cheap, processed foods that are high in fats and sugars. Compared to diets rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, these unhealthy meals have high energy content per dollar spent, making them more convenient and accessible to the poor. In South Africa, a typical healthy meal costs approximately 69 percent more than an unhealthy one. For households living in extreme poverty, pursuing a healthy diet could take away up to 30 percent of the total income.

Placing taxes on unhealthy foods could help combat the problem. Collective action is crucial. “If obesity was an infectious disease,” stated World Obesity Federation’s Dr. Tim Lobstein, “we would have seen billions of dollars being invested in bringing it under control.”

– Kristy Liao

Sources: BBC, Huffington Post, Time
Photo: Earth Times

Pricy_healthy_food_vs_Cheap_unhealthy_food
Many experts agree that buying healthy food has a barrier: the price. By eating nutritious foods, the world’s current obesity epidemic could be reduced drastically, but unfortunately, there may be a reason for why certain socioeconomic groups are more overweight than others.

The Harvard School of Public Health has now conducted research to see whether it is too expensive to eat healthy if you are making less money.

The short answer is yes, it can be.

Mayuree Rao, lead researcher in HSPH’s study, found that lean meats compared to fattier pieces of meat were globally more expensive. She was able to study 10 different countries, convert the food prices between countries and adjust the prices to correlate with inflation.

She found that although the level of difference varied, there was in fact a correlation between the more nutritious and healthier versions of food and the price. Generally, lean cuts of meat cost 29 cents more than the fattier cuts.

Grains, dairy and snack foods have less of a price barrier and often are enhanced with added vitamins and nutrients. This does not necessarily make them healthier though. Many snack foods and cereals have added vitamins and minerals, but are also high in added sugars, fats and are not made with whole grains, but instead refined grains.

Diets that were most beneficial and balanced with lean meats, vegetables, fruits and dairy cost approximately $1.50 more a day than the unhealthy options.

This may seem like a minimal impact to your wallet, but it is actually almost $50 more a month spent on groceries. For families that are on a tight budget it is understandable why the fresher and healthier choices are sometimes skipped over for the less nutritious, but more affordable options.

For low-income areas, healthier options like full-service grocers are not available. Residents are forced to use convenience stores, which do not always have fresh produce, and when they do, the fruits and vegetables available are not always the best quality and are therefore less appealing.

The availability of full-service grocery stores may be the answer. With more options that are accessible, low-income communities will be able to get some on-sale items and not have to resort to buying convenience store foods or buy meals from fast food restaurants.

– Becka Felcon

Sources: Food Research and Action Center, CNN
Photo: The Good Calorie.com

Poverty and Obesity Fast Food Developing Countries
The diplomatic phrase “emerging markets” is a term food companies use to target individuals living in developing countries. Processed food companies, such as KFC, McDonald’s and the like are using developing countries as a way to boost economic growth – the world’s poor is a market that needs to be tapped – and it is the food companies that have taken full advantage of these unchartered territories, bringing poverty and obesity into the public eye.

 

Fast Food Stimulates Poverty and Obesity

 

Take this real life paradox: in South Africa, 60% of women and 25% of children are overweight, yet 20% of the children also suffer from malnutrition. The sudden introduction of fast food joints in developing countries is harmful for a number of reasons. The first is that the world’s poor are unaware of the dangers of processed food because they have not been properly educated about nor introduced to this market in the past.

The second reason is cultural; a fast food joint is a sign of luxury and status in developing countries – so locals may feel more inclined to spend a week’s worth of wages for one meal simply because they appear to be better off than they actually are. In order to get past these potential consequences, locals need to be educated about the nutritional value of cheap, processed food (or lack thereof) otherwise there will be more health crises to accompany the already dire situation in developing countries. Heart disease, diabetes and obesity may very well follow in the path of malnutrition, HIV/AIDS and death that run rampant in developing countries.

If food companies are going to be tapping into this market then the public needs to be educated about the potential consequences of including a diet with cheap, processed foods. Fast food corporations are inherently at an advantage because they have the resources to enter these countries and make incredible profits off of unsuspecting locals.

South Africa is not the only country that has been drastically targeted by this “other” food crisis. Six countries out of the top ten in the world – Kuwait, Lebanon, Qatar and Saudi Arabia are in the lead for prevalence of type 2 diabetes, affecting 11% of the population. All of these countries within the Middle East reveal negative effects of the presence of fast food companies in developing countries. The global poor are seriously lacking in aid, yet when they are seen as a consumer, they are suddenly bombarded with attention from companies who want to make a buck off of them.

Obviously the reality is that fast food companies are in every country – no one is immune – but they are especially harmful for developing countries. Food corporations are tapping into new markets because their markets in the global north have reached a “saturation point” – “that point is reached when processed foods provide 60% of a country’s total calories”. In other words, they want more money and they want it now.

The solutions to this are unclear, but there are some countries that are making great leaps towards remedying the fast food crisis. Brazil for example, has government legislation that calls for healthier school meals for children and the basic right to access healthy food, as outlined in the Brazilian constitution.

Do the developing countries or even the United States attempt what Brazil has done and enact these solutions into legislation to disarm the fast food takeover, or is it through education and awareness that we quell this crisis?


-Rozali Telbis

Photo: Oxford Journals
Sources:
Food Tank, Huffington Post, The Guardian

Childhood Obesity
Obesity in the U.S. is at epidemic proportions. The U.S. had the highest obesity rate in the world for several years and only recently bequeathed the rank to Mexico.  According to several reports, the first drops in obesity in over 30 years have begun to occur in several cities across the U.S. The percentages are small, but the fact that they are occurring at all is big deal because that means that the stagnation the U.S. has endured while fighting this disease may actually be able to reverse itself.

Researchers at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a National Health and Nutrition Examination survey in 2011 and 2012 that examined the diets and eating habits of over 9,000 children ages 2 years old to 19 years old and adults 20 years of age and over. The study found that rates of childhood obesity have dropped 43 percent for children between the ages of 2 years old and 5 years old since 2003.

The news of obesity declining in early childhood is grand news indeed, however the study also found that other age groups obesity levels are on the rise. The study found that nearly 32 percent of those in the study ages 2 years old and 19 years of age were either obese or overweight. The staggering statistic is that 68 percent of U.S. adults are in the overweight or obese category, with 35 percent of them being obese and nearly 7 percent of those being extremely obese.

The nation’s attention has been on obesity for some time, and with the First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Lets Move” initiatives, many food companies are beginning to change the labeling on their foods to accurately reflect their content. Schools across America are also making changes to their cafeteria food line ups as well, taking deep friers out have been a help as well as eliminating soda vending machines from schools. This has been somewhat of a contentious issue as schools who have soda machines have usually paired up with soft drink companies and are receiving compensation in kind.

The decline of early childhood obesity in the U.S. means that a disease which cause so many other illnesses like heart attacks and strokes may also decline.  The U.S. is a leader and pioneer in the world, but if future generations are going forward with a variety of maladies due to obesity, then how will the U.S. lead and be a governing force in the years and decades to come?

– Arthur Fuller

Sources: New York Times, CBS News, MSNBC, BBC
Photo: Pinimg

Improved_Farming
In America, obesity has become a major issue.  According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Department, more than one third of United States adults are obese and as of 2012, more than a quarter of American children are obese.  Alongside the U.S., obesity has become a major issue abroad in countries such as China.

Obesity leads to serious health problems such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.  Obesity increases the medical cost for individuals by more than $1,400 per year and government spending on healthcare costs by $147 billion.  Obesity also decreases the productivity of individuals, which with all of these combined demonstrate its negative effect on the economy.  As obesity is a highly emphasized global concern, much of that sentiment can be equally shared to its counter: the issue of hunger.

Even though it might seem that obesity and hunger are entirely different issues, they resurrect from the same origin – a nutritional system.  Understanding the causes of these two issues will further establish the significance to this underlying connection. Take, for instance that while the cause of obesity is an excessive consumption of unhealthy food and lack of exercise, the cause of hunger is a lack of food or conduct to establish a healthy diet.  For both, the root of the problem is the farming industry.

Most of the food supply comes from developing countries.  If the farmers do not have access to good farming equipment and farming technology, they will be more likely to use toxic farming chemicals on their land and cattle. In result, the produced food contains several unsafe chemicals that contribute to the potential causes of obesity.

In a TED talk, Ellen Gustafson suggested the solution to both of these problems is to increase the funding for farming industries and feed the hungry children in developing countries. By increasing the fund for farming, farmers can have access to better farming technology to enable producing healthier food for their home countries and exporting countries.  Additionally, more healthful diets help children in poverty countries grow up with both a healthy physicality and mental ability.

On a further note, hunger is a primary reason that children in poverty countries cannot go to school.  Improving the ethics in the farming industry and food supply to laborers, children in poverty can go to school, get educated, earn a better income and acquire a better livelihood while also contributing back to their society.

Phong Pham

Sources: Ted Talks, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Obesity Society

goonies-chunk-o
The number of overweight and obese people has grown drastically in the past 30 years, going from 23% of the world’s population in 1980 to over a third today.  Surprisingly to some, the majority of overweight and obese people live in developing countries.  As globalization spreads and countries go from low-income to middle-income, people have more money to buy food.  At the same time the access to cheap junk food full of fat, carbohydrates, sugar and salt is becoming readily available.  As food gets tastier and cheaper, families in the developing world are consuming these products and steadily gaining weight.

Sharada Keats and Steven Wiggins from the Overseas Development Institute in London released a report on January 3rd called, “Future Diets.”  This report summarizes research that shows that diets are changing.  As incomes rise in the developing world people are moving from a diet that consists of cereals and tubers to diets that include meat, fat and sugar.

The portion sizes that people are eating are also going up.

These changes mean that the price of animal products will go up all over the world while prices for grains will go down.  The agricultural crisis of not having enough grains to feed the poor may be replaced by a public health crisis as more people move to eating unhealthy diets.

Obesity is increasing throughout the developing world.  Further, reports have noted that obesity has tripled in the developing world in the past 30 years.

Mexico is a good example of how globalization and higher incomes are impacting diets and waistlines of middle-income countries. In 1980, fewer than 40% of Mexicans were overweight or obese. Today that figure is more than 70%.  In 1980 there were 250 million overweight and obese adults in the developing world. In 2008 those numbers have grown to 904 million.

This is a global health concern as unhealthy diets and weight gain put people at a large risk for a wide range of health conditions including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. This is going to place an increased burden on low and middle-income countries with already struggling health care systems.  It will also cause economic difficulties and increased health care costs.

At the moment there seems to be little interest among the public and leaders to take action against the growing obesity problem.  Keats and Wiggins suggest that as countries begin to face the serious health implications and economic problems associated with obesity they may consider investing in public education and policy changes as well.  Conclusively, Keats and Wiggins suggest for a resolution that is a moderate combination of education, prices and regulation measures.

– Elizabeth Brown

Sources: NPR, Overseas Development Institute (ODI), BBC

mcdonalds_opt-1
As developing countries’ economies improve they are increasingly at risk of the obesity pandemic. As income levels rise and physical labor decreases, these populations become susceptible to the same unhealthy weight gain that has swept through the United States and Europe.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines “obese” as having a body mass index of thirty or above. A recent report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) states 500 million people worldwide qualify as obese, or 1 out of every 10 people.

Already obesity rates in Brazil and South Africa exceed OECD countries’ average. However, in order to slow these growing rates, developing nations must get ahead of the trend. The OECD report recommends these countries utilize media campaigns, subsidy programs, and taxes to promote healthier diets. However, these actions present a bill that developing nations are reluctant or unable to pay. The OECD states the agenda would be cost-effective down the road by preventing staggering health care expenses. Taxes on sugary and fatty foods have proven to slow obesity rates in developing countries.

Increased economic potential in developing countries opens them up to alternative food sources. These sources may include “westernized” diets of sugary and fatty foods. As rural populations become urbanized they are put at risk of developing health problems including rising obesity rates. While rural populations rely on traditional diets consisting of self-grown fruits, vegetables, and grains urban populations obtain their food from outside sources. These are often cheaper, processed foods.

In a study published in the Oxford International Journal of Epidemiology the authors, conducting studies in Gambia, state their belief that the remittance economy may affect diets in villages. With the increase in remittances (money sent home from family members working abroad) local villagers have increased access to imported food items, often high in fat and oils.

Under-nutrition in early life may predispose an individual to obesity later. Some research has shown that “nutritional stunting” or under-weight children may later be more susceptible to extreme weight gain. This susceptibility presents a targeted risk for developing countries.

A significant concern for developing countries are the health problems that are associated with obesity. Obese individuals often suffer from heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. However, health systems in developing nations are ill-equipped to deal with these diseases or even patient increases. In many of these nations the health care industry and health aid must still address malnutrition, malaria, TB, and HIV/AIDS.

– Callie D. Coleman

Sources: FAO, Oxford Journals, WHO, BBC, Huffington Post
Photo: ABC

Obesity: Not Just a First World Problem
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

Sources: Deseret News, Kids Health, WHO
Photos: Deseret News

Obesity Spreading To Developing Nations
While it seemed as if obesity was normally a problem only high-income countries suffered from, the World Health Organization stated that that is no longer the case. With obesity spreading to developing nations in Africa and Latin America, hunger and starvation are not the only food issues poorer countries are facing.

Obesity is often overlooked disease. Between 1980 and 2008, the number of people who were considered obese had almost doubled with 2.8 million people each year dying from the disease. Obesity is also correlated with other diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Obesity is developing in poorer countries because oftentimes unhealthy, fatty, and sugar-laden foods are much less expensive than healthier options. People with less money have fewer choices to eat healthily. In order to combat this “obesity epidemic,” the WHO created a plan that will attempt to halt the spread of obesity by 2020 by urging food companies to start making healthier options with fewer harmful fats, salts, and sugars, and to reduce portion sizes. The plan also calls for a reduction in marketing foods to children, because they are more impressionable and vulnerable, therefore more likely to become hooked on unhealthy food that could cause them significant or even deadly health problems in the future.

The food and beverage industry has reacted surprisingly well to most of the plans and proposals. Jane Reid of the International Food and Beverage Alliance noted that companies represented by the Alliance such as Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and Nestle have been voluntarily working on a solution for almost 10 years. These companies readily support the actions proposed by the World Health Organization.

The proposals that the International Food and Beverage Alliance didn’t agree with were ideas that countries with the most pressing obesity problems should place higher taxes on unhealthy foods. Reid claimed that there is no proof that increased taxes and other forms of monetary pressure would improve eating habits and that the families with the lowest income would be hit the hardest.

Katie Brockman
Source: Yahoo! News