Knowledge for better food systems

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Food provides the nutrients we need for effective metabolic functioning. Malnutrition in all its forms is common across the globe and causes many serious health issues from conception and throughout the life course. Some 800 million people still go to bed hungry today, while around 2 billion people are now overweight or obese  these include poor people and increasingly citizens of low and middle income countries – and their numbers are growing. Overlapping with these numbers around 2 billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, which cause physical and cognitive problems. Poor diets rich in processed foods and animal products and low in fruit and vegetables are now the main cause of premature deaths worldwide, implicated in diseases such as obesity, strokes, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some cancers. In addition, our nutrition and broader health status also influence our susceptibility to infectious diseases. Diet-related health outcomes are shaped by multiple social, economic, cultural and political factors and these influences on food consumption interact with other factors (from environmental through to genetic) to influence health.

12 March 2014

This new report from the from China-based FORHEAD Working Group on Food Safety/SSRC discuss food safety issues in China. The report examines what is known from the natural, medical and social sciences about food safety in China and about policy and public responses. It aims to provide the basis for more effective use of existing knowledge and to inform a more integrated and problem-oriented research agenda.

12 March 2014

This research shows that it is possible to modify plant seeds to produce omega 3 fatty acids. Through a process of  genetic modification,  the research modifies the plant Camelina sativa  (false flax) with genes from microalgae – the main producers of the omega 3 fatty acids DHA  and  EPA.  The oil extracted from the seeds can then be used as a more sustainable alternative to fish oils.

18 February 2014

This systematic review examines the most common persuasive techniques used to promote junk food to children on television. The study shows that the approaches most frequently used are: free toys, gifts, discounts and competitions, promotional characters and celebrities, and appeals to taste and fun to promote junk food to children. These persuasive techniques were found to be used more often when promoting unhealthy food. The study authors argue that a ban on junk food advertising to children under 16 would be an important measure to fight child obesity. NB: the study looks at which persuasive techniques were most commonly used – it doesn’t assess which are the most effective.

6 February 2014

The paper is a systematic review of literature describing seven dietary interventions  aimed at increasing fruit and vegetable consumption in overweight or obese children. It points out that in the context of the global obesity problem, dietary interventions can be used to promote healthy eating habits, but taking a narrow and restrictive focus can result in an increased preference for the restricted foods and be unlikely at achieving positive, long-term change.

6 February 2014

Farmagaddeon describes the effects of livestock intensification (“factory farming”) around the world. It makes the case against industrialised agriculture arguing that it affects not only the welfare of farmed animals but also increasingly our countryside, health and the quality of our food all around the world.

28 January 2014

The Good Enough to Eat Index highlights some of the areas of critical concern for many countries when it comes to making sure that people can eat well, and indicates some important failings of the global food system that must be addressed. The index is an interactive snapshot of 125 countries showing the best and worst places in the world to eat, and the challenges people face getting enough of the right food. It was constructed to illustrate how overconsumption, misuse of resources and waste are common elements of a system where one in eight people suffer from hunger, while there is enough food to feed the global population.

21 November 2013

This article published in the Lancet, argues that coordinated action at the political level, both nationally and internationally is required to meet the challenge of antibiotic resistance. If such global coordinated actions are not immediately taken the authors argue that we will see major setbacks, medically, socially, and economically. The article focuses on antibiotic resistance from a global perspective and identifies key areas where action is needed.

5 September 2013

This study entitled: “Dairy products and the risk of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of cohort studies” takes another look at the evidence on the association between intake of dairy products and the risk of type 2 diabetes.

 

2 July 2013

The FAO’s latest food and agriculture series report is on the theme of better nutrition. Focusing on malnutrition in all its forms – underweight, micronutrient deficiencies and overweight/obesity – the report argues that approaches to improving nutrition need to move beyond a traditional focus on agricultural alone as a source of food and incomes.  Instead, it is necessary to consider the larger contribution that the entire food system (from inputs and production, through processing, storage, transport and retailing, to consumption) can play in influencing malnutrition outcomes.

2 July 2013

The WHO Regional Office for Europe has produced a report calling for tighter controls on the marketing to children of foods high in saturated and trans fats, free sugars and salt, in order to fight childhood obesity. It says that while adults know when they are being targeted by advertising, children cannot distinguish, for example, between advertisements and cartoons. This makes them particularly receptive and vulnerable to messages that lead to unhealthy choices.

24 June 2013

The UK’s Department of Health has launched a new, standardised but voluntary labelling scheme for displaying nutritional information on food products, the aim being to make make it easier for people to make healthier choices. The system when it goes on display will combine red, amber, green colour-coding and nutritional information to show how much fat, saturated fat, salt and sugar, and calories are in food products.

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