Sunday December 15, 2019

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

0
//
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%.

ALSO READ: Scientists Closing in on Blood Test to Screen People for Possible Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

“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)

Next Story

Obesity Can Lead to Brain Damage: Study

According to researchers, this pattern of damage correlated with some inflammatory markers, like leptin, a hormone made by fat cells that helps regulate energy and fat stores

0
Brain
"Brain changes were found in obese adolescents related to regions responsible for control of appetite, emotions and cognitive functions," said study co-author Pamela Bertolazzi from the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil. Pixabay

While obesity is primarily associated with weight gain, a new study suggests it triggers inflammation in the nervous system that could damage important regions of the brain.

Developments in MRI, like diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), a technique that tracks the diffusion of water along the brain’s signal-carrying white matter tracts, have enabled researchers to study this damage directly.

“Brain changes were found in obese adolescents related to regions responsible for control of appetite, emotions and cognitive functions,” said study co-author Pamela Bertolazzi from the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) data indicates the number of overweight or obese infants and young children increased from 32 million in 1990 to 41 million in 2016 globally.

For the study, researchers compared DTI results in 59 obese and 61 healthy adolescents, aged 12-16 years.

From DTI, the researchers derived a measure called fractional anisotropy (FA), which correlates with the condition of the brain’s white matter. A reduction in fractional anisotropy is indicative of increasing damage in the white matter.

Brain
While obesity is primarily associated with weight gain, a new study suggests it triggers inflammation in the nervous system that could damage important regions of the brain. Pixabay

The results showed reduction of FA values in the obese adolescents in regions located in the corpus callosum, a bundle of nerve fibre that connects the left and right hemispheres of the brain.

Decrease of fractional anisotropy was also found in the middle orbitofrontal gyrus, a brain region related to emotional control and the reward circuit. None of the brain regions in obese patients had increased fractional anisotropy.

According to researchers, this pattern of damage correlated with some inflammatory markers, like leptin, a hormone made by fat cells that helps regulate energy and fat stores.

In some obese people, the brain doesn’t respond to leptin, causing them to keep eating despite adequate or excessive fat stores. This condition, known as leptin resistance, makes the fat cells produce even more leptin.

Brain
The World Health Organisation (WHO) data indicates the number of overweight or obese infants and young children increased from 32 million in 1990 to 41 million in 2016 globally, having effect on Brain Health. Wikimedia Commons

Worsening condition of the white matter was also associated with levels of insulin, a hormone produced in the pancreas that helps regulate blood sugar levels. Obese people often suffer from insulin resistance.

“Our maps showed a positive correlation between brain changes and hormones, such as leptin and insulin,” Bertolazzi said.

ALSO READ: Google Maps Captures Over 10 mn Miles of Street View Imagery

“In the future, we would like to repeat brain MRI in these adolescents after multi-professional treatment for weight loss to assess if the brain changes are reversible,” she said. (IANS)