Friday December 13, 2019

Need For Urgent Action to Tackle Obesity, Climate Change, Says Lancet Study

Led by the University of Auckland (New Zealand), the George Washington University (US), and World Obesity Federation (UK), the report is the result of a three-year project led by 43 experts from a broad range of expertise from 14 countries

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Obesity, Pregnancy
Representational image. Pixabay

The pandemics of obesity, undernutrition, and climate change are interlinked and represent the paramount challenge for humans, the environment and our planet, says a Lancet report, that presses the need for urgent action.

The report of the “Lancet Commission on Obesity”, based on 14 countries including India, demonstrates the need to take a hard line against powerful commercial interests and rethink global economic incentives within the food system in order to tackle these joint pandemics termed as ‘The Global Syndemic’.

“We are already late, sitting at the pinnacle and action is needed at the national level as well as ground level,” Shifalika Goenka, Professor at Public Health Foundation of India.

“We need our own national monitoring framework with specific indicators which help monitor the targets at ground level for drivers of under nutrition, over nutrition and climate change,” added Goenka, who is also the Commissioner on the Lancet Obesity Commission.

Malnutrition in all its forms, including undernutrition and obesity, is by far the biggest cause of ill health and premature death globally. Both undernutrition and obesity are expected to be made significantly worse by climate change.

“Until now, undernutrition and obesity have been seen as polar opposites of either too few or too many calories,” said Professor Boyd Swinburn of the University of Auckland.

“They are both driven by the same unhealthy, inequitable food systems, underpinned by the same political economy that is single-focused on economic growth, and ignores the negative health and equity outcomes.

“Climate change has the same story of profits and power ignoring the environmental damage caused by current food systems, transportation, urban design and land use,” Swinburn said.

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The researchers looked at how many people within each group died as compared to those within the normal weight population with no metabolic risk factors. Pixabay

The report explained that obesity, under nutrition, and climate change also interact with each other.

For example, climate change will increase under nutrition through increased food insecurity from extreme weather events, droughts, and shifts in agriculture.

Likewise, foetal and infant undernutrition increases the risk of adult obesity and the harms caused due to obesity.

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Climate change may also affect prices of basic food commodities, especially fruit and vegetables, potentially increasing consumption of processed foods.

Driving these ‘The Global Syndemic’ are food and agriculture policies, transportation, urban design and land use systems — which in turn are driven by policies and economic incentives that promote overconsumption and inequalities.

The report calls to establish a Framework Convention on Food Systems (FCFS) — similar to global conventions for tobacco control and climate change — to restrict the influence of the food industry in policy making and to mobilise national action for healthy, equitable and sustainable food systems.

“The prevailing business model of large international food and beverage companies that focus on maximising short-term profits leads to overconsumption of nutrient-poor food and beverages in both high-income countries and increasingly in low and middle-income countries,” said Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief, The Lancet.

Led by the University of Auckland (New Zealand), the George Washington University (US), and World Obesity Federation (UK), the report is the result of a three-year project led by 43 experts from a broad range of expertise from 14 countries. (IANS)

Next Story

Watching TV Increases Risk of Obesity among Kids: Study

TV watching most strongly linked to obesity in kids

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Identifying habits linked to overweight and obesity in the early stages of life can help us to define preventive strategies against other conditions. Pixabay

Parents, please take note. Among the lifestyle habits that influence the risk of overweight and obesity in children, watching television is the worst, suggests new research.

“Identifying habits linked to overweight and obesity in the early stages of life can help us to define preventive strategies against other conditions, such as cardiovascular and metabolic diseases during adulthood,” said lead author of the study Rowaedh Bawaked, researcher at the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute in Spain.

The researchers analysed five lifestyle habits: physical activity, sleep time, television time, plant-based food consumption and ultra-processed food consumption.

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Researchers found that watching tv has serious effects such as obesity. Pixabay

The study, published in the journal Pediatric Obesity, was based on data from 1,480 children.

Parents were asked to complete various questionnaires on the children’s lifestyle habits at four years of age.

To calculate the health impact of these habits, the researchers measured the children’s body mass index (BMI), waist circumference and blood pressure at four and seven years of age.

Children who were less active and spent more time in front of the television at four years of age were at greater risk of being affected by overweight, obesity and metabolic syndrome at seven years of age, showed the findings.

The researchers also measured the time spent by the children on other sedentary activities, such as reading, drawing and doing puzzles. However, these activities did not appear to be associated with overweight or obesity.

“When children watch TV, they see a huge number of advertisements for unhealthy food,” said co-leader of the study Dora Romaguera from Barcelona Institute for Global Health in Spain.

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Another reason why watching tv leads to obesity is that the commercials of junk food attracts kids. Pixabay

“This may encourage them to consume these products,” Romaguera said.

Ultra-processed foods, such as pastries, sweet beverages and refined-grain products, are high in sugar, salt and saturated fat and low in nutritional value.

The study showed that high intake of these products at four years of age was associated with a higher BMI at seven years of age.

Moreover, television viewing “discourages physical activity and interrupts sleep time”, explained Silvia Fernandez, a post-doctoral researcher at Barcelona Institute for Global Health.

As the researchers noted, adequate sleep time in early childhood is essential for weight control later in childhood.

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The study concluded that adult health depends on the establishment of healthy lifestyle habits during childhood: limited television time, extracurricular physical activity, getting enough hours of sleep, eating lots of vegetables and avoiding ultra-processed foods. (IANS)