Study of Nutrition Crisis Finds Millions Either Malnourished or Obese

Almost every country in the world now has serious nutrition problems, either because of overeating leading to obesity or a lack of food leading to undernutrition, according to a major study published Saturday.

Researchers behind the Global Nutrition Report, which looked at 140 countries, said the problems were thwarting “human development as a whole” and called for a critical change in the response to this global health threat.

The report found that while malnutrition rates were falling globally, their rate of decrease was not fast enough to meet the internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to end all forms of malnutrition by 2030.

More than 155 million children under age 5 are stunted because of lack of nutrition, and 52 million are defined as “wasted,” meaning they do not weigh enough for their height, the report said.

At the other end of the spectrum, overeating is taking a heavy toll on people of all ages worldwide: The report found that 2 billion of the world’s 7 billion people are now overweight or obese.

In North America, a third of all men and women are obese.

Worldwide, at least 41 million children under 5 are overweight, and in Africa alone, 10 million children are now classified as overweight.

“Historically, maternal anemia and child undernutrition have been seen as separate problems to obesity and noncommunicable diseases,” said Jessica Fanzo, a professor at Johns Hopkins University in the United States who co-led the Global Nutrition Report.

“The reality is they are intimately connected and driven by inequalities everywhere in the world. That’s why governments … need to tackle them holistically, not as distinct problems.”

Donor funding for nutrition rose by just 2 percent to $867 million in 2015, the report found. It said funding needs to be “turbocharged” and called for a tripling of global investment in nutrition to $70 billion over 10 years.

The Global Nutrition Report is an independently produced annual analysis of the state of the world’s nutrition. It tracks progress on targets for maternal, infant and young child nutrition and on diet-related chronic diseases adopted by World Health Organization member states.

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