Monday January 20, 2020

UN: Global Hunger Levels Stabilizing, While Obesity Rates are Skyrocketing

For the first time, the U.N. agencies were able to gather data on world obesity rates, which are hitting record levels

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hunger, obesity
A man waits to receive food aid outside a camp for displaced survivors of cyclone Idai in Dombe, Mozambique, April 4, 2019. VOA

The United Nations says more than 820 million people around the world are hungry, while at same time, obesity is hitting record levels.

A report released Monday by five U.N. agencies dealing with food, nutrition and health says that while hunger levels have mostly stabilized, more people around the world are anxious about where their family’s next meal will come from.

“People that feel insecure  insecure because they are in areas under conflict, insecure because they are in countries with high levels of inflation, insecure because they are very low paid that they will not have money to buy their food — this number reached 2 billion people around the world,” José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said at the report’s launch. “This is really a big, big number. We were surprised when we found this figure.”

obesity, hunger
FILE – Jose Graziano da Silva, director-general of the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). VOA

The report notes the highest hunger rates are in Africa and growing steadily in almost all parts of the subcontinent, where climate and conflict, economic slowdowns and downturns have driven more than 256 million people into a state of food insecurity.

In Asia, more than 500 million people, primarily in the southern part of the continent, are suffering from malnutrition. This sort of hunger has lasting impacts on its victims, especially children, who suffer from stunting and wasting.

“So the question is what are we going to do about it?” asked World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley. “Because if these were your little girls and your little boys, I guarantee you, you’d be doing everything you could to do something about it.”

Beasley said the problem of world hunger is solvable, but is not achievable without ending war and conflicts, which consume a huge portion of the global economy that could be used for development.

obesity, hunger
David Beasley, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) executive director, speaks during a press conference in Seoul, May 15, 2018, after his visit to North Korea. VOA

Obesity a global epidemic

For the first time, the U.N. agencies were able to gather data on world obesity rates, which are skyrocketing. “We have about 830 million obese people in the world,” said the FAO’s Graziano da Silva. “That’s happening in most continents except Africa and Asia.”

He said trends indicate that the numbers of overweight and obese people in Africa and Asia would soon exceed those who are hungry.  Graziano da Silva said obesity rates are rising by 6.3% and 7.5% per year respectively in Africa and Asia, while the global average is 4.8%.

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“It’s really a global epidemic issue the way obesity is rising and how fast it is rising,” Graziano da Silva added. The cost of obesity is very high, some $2 trillion a year in related illnesses and other side effects.

Graziano da Silva urged better labeling of foods, reducing the levels of salt, fats and sugars in processed foods and restricting advertising for some products geared toward children. He noted healthy and fresh foods also need to be promoted and access to them needs to be increased for some populations. (VOA)

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Lazy Infants More Likely to Suffer From Obesity

Less active babies have higher obesity risk

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Infant obesity
Less active infants may accumulate more fat, which in turn may put them at risk for obesity later in life. Pixabay

Parents, please take note. Researchers have revealed that less active infants may accumulate more fat, which in turn may put them at risk for obesity later in life.

For the study, published in the journal Obesity, researchers tracked the physical activity levels of 506 infants using small ankle-worn accelerometers for four days per tracking period at ages 3, 6, 9, and 12 months.

For each tracking period after 3, average physical activity increased by about four per cent, in line with infants becoming generally more mobile and active over the course of their first year.

Among infants, higher physical activity measured by the accelerometer was associated with lower central adiposity, a measure of lower-torso fat accumulation, the study said.

Infant obesity
These days, infants are spending more and more sedentary time in car seats, high chairs, strollers and it may lead to obesity. Pixabay

“This is the first study to demonstrate an association over time between higher levels of objectively measured physical activity and lower central adiposity in infancy,” said study lead author Sara Benjamin-Neelon from Johns Hopkins University in US.

The study was part of a larger study of infant growth and obesity, called the Nurture study, which covered 666 mothers and their infants from the greater Durham, North Carolina, area during 2013 to 2016.

Of this group, the research team were able to get adequate accelerometer data for 506 infants.

“Some evidence suggests that the earlier you can get infants crawling and walking, and providing them with opportunities to move freely throughout the day, the more you can help protect them against later obesity,” Benjamin-Neelon said.

The study found that among the infants in the study, an increase in recorded activity by one “standard deviation”–essentially a standard proportion of the range of the data–was associated with a small but significant decrease in central adiposity.

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The researcher noted that larger, longer-term studies will be necessary to determine the sustained effect of infant physical activity, but that preventing extended periods of inactivity for infants will almost certainly be good for them.

“These days, infants are spending more and more sedentary time in car seats, high chairs, strollers–and perhaps we haven’t thought enough about the developmental ramifications of these types of restrictive devices,” Benjamin-Neelon concluded. (IANS)