Showing results for: Health issues
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.
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.
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.
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.
This study follows a cohort of around 100,000 people over the course of 20 years. It looks at the associations between changes in red meat consumption and the incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM). All participants started out as red meat eaters.
On June 8 2013, the UK government granted £30 million to HarvestPlus to develop and deliver six biofortified crops to several million farming households in Africa and Asia.
This prospective cohort study of more than 70,000 Seventh-Day Adventists finds a 12% reduction in all-cause mortality in vegetarians, vegans and pescatarians as compared with their omivorous counterparts.
The UK’s Daily Mail reports that the UK supermarket Tesco will monitor the healthiness of its customers’ food purchases using Clubcard data and then use that data to suggest ways in which people could make healthier choices. Although plans are still in the early stages options considered so far include offering vouchers for healthier products and promoting a better diet via suggested recipes.
Maternal and child undernutrition was the subject of a Series of papers in The Lancet in 2008. Five years after the initial series, the Lancet re-evaluates the problems of maternal and child undernutrition and also examines the growing problems of overweight and obesity for women and children, and their consequences in low-income and middle-income countries.
This is an interesting study which tests preferences for sugar, fat, salt and umami (savoury-ness) among children in a range of European countries. It finds that children’s liking for these tastes varies by country, suggesting that culture has a very strong part to play in influencing food preferences. While hardly a major revelation in itself, what I take from this study is that the very common assumptions we see about the ‘inevitability’ of growth in demand for high fat and high sugar foods, or for meat products, are open to challenge.
Another study highlighting the benefits of the Mediterranean diet. This one reports on the findings of a randomised controlled trial finding that a Mediterranean diet high in fruit and vegetables, seafood, whole grains, mono-unsaturated fats and very low in meat and dairy delivers better health outcomes as regards prevention of cardiovascular heart disease and strokes than a low fat diet.
A paper published in Nature Climate Change suggests that planting trees for use as a biofuel source, near populated areas, is likely to increase human deaths due to inhalation of ozone. Increased levels of isoprene emitted from such trees, when interacting with other air pollutants can lead to increased levels of ozone in the air which might also lead to lower crop yields.
This paper has been widely reported – and also misinterpreted. It has been publicised as a study which suggests that healthier diets (which seems to be conflated with one containing lower levels of meat and dairy) do not necessarily lead to reduced GHG emissions; however, a closer reading of the conclusions reveals otherwise.
A report funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) identifies the ‘hotspots’ where zoonoses impose significant burdens, but also where zoonoses management is targeted at poor livestock keepers and consumers. The report maps emerging zoonoses as distinct from other emerging disease events, provides maps of regional agroecosystems, and summarises numbers of livestock, people and poor livestock keepers by system as well as by zoonoses context.
This policy note by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) calls for governments to prioritize policies and actions and invest substantially in efforts to address the needs of their malnourished populations. Despite the importance of adequate nutrition for economic and social development, few countries have given nutrition issues high priority in national policy-making processes and resultant policies. This policy note reviews individual developing countries’ nutrition policies, highlights examples of countries that have successfully included nutrition in their development agendas, and concludes by outlining the rationale for making malnutrition reduction a policy priority, together with policy recommendations.
An article in Insights, the magazine of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), explores the complex issues of increasing livestock production and consumption. As consumption is flattening in the developed world, over the next several decades demand for meat will continue to increase in the developing world. The article also explores the need for raising livestock sustainably in order to mitigate negative impacts on human health and the environment.
New duties on foods known to be unhealthy should be part of a package of public health policies to tackle overweight and obesity and other diet-related diseases, according to the National Heart Forum (NHF).
What is public health? To some, it is about drains, water, food and housing, all requiring engineering and expert management. To others, it is the State using medicine or health education and tackling unhealthy lifestyles. This book argues that public health thinking needs an overhaul, a return to and modernisation around ecological principles.