Going by a report of the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition which is being presented to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, poor diet is affecting the health of one in three of the world’s people. This report further states that undernourishment is stunting the growth of nearly a quarter of children under five and by 2030 a third of the world’s population could be overweight or obese.
It is interesting to note that according to a report published in the Wall Street Journal in April this year worldwide, the number of obese people rose to 641 million in 2014 from 105 million in 1975. The Global obesity rates almost tripled for men to 11% of the total from 3.2% in 1975.
This Global panel is led by the former President of Ghana John Kufuor and the former Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Government Sir John Beddington. This global panel says that two billion people in the world lack those essential vitamins and minerals in their diet which are necessary to make their diet healthy. According to the National Nutrition Monitoring Bureau of India, in the year 2014 over 50 per cent of healthy looking children suffered from deficiencies of vitamin A, C, B2, B6 and folate, and over 2/3rd are oblivious to the iron deficiency they live with.
This unhealthy diet will result in the increase in the incidence of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes and other diet-related illnesses. And this, in turn, will undermine productivity and will also threaten to overwhelm health services.
It must be noted that the non infectious diseases mentioned above are associated with the fatty, highly processed diet of the developed world and in this case developing countries are also not far behind.
This Global Panel has warned that if this current trend continues the situation is likely to become worse in the next twenty years.
One of the authors of the report of the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition, Prof Lawrence Haddad, who is the head of International Food Policy Research Institute, cites the example of Guatemala. According to him around 40 % of the children of this country are short for their age.
Adding to this, the Director of the Global Panel Prof Sandy Thomas says, “It’s a similar story in many low and middle-income countries, and poor physical condition leads directly to low productivity.
Another significant finding of the Global Panel which cannot be ignored is that by 2050 the estimated impact of elevated carbon dioxide in the atmosphere on the zinc containing food grains, tubers and legumes could lead to 138 million more people worldwide to a new risk of zinc deficiency. Zinc deficiency leads to growth retardation, loss of appetite, and impaired immune function.