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.

3 February 2016

This BBC News – Health article describes the new smartphone app that has been released by Public Health England (PHE) as part of its Change4Life advertising campaign. The app allows the user to scan the bar-codes of over 75,000 food and drink items and be told how much sugar the item contains, either as sugar cubes or grams.

3 February 2016

This article by the Sustainable Food Trust summarises and reviews the latest report by The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance. The author highlights the calls by the Review’s chair, Jim O’Neill, for a decreased use of antibiotics - especially those of most use in human medicine - worldwide, and presents the evidence laid out in the report and elsewhere for the link between veterinary use of antibiotics in livestock and increased antimicrobial resistance in human pathogens.

3 February 2016

This report by The Food Foundation describes typical British family diets, their healthiness and environmental footprint, and in particular the social and economic drivers that influence typical food choices.

18 January 2016

The director of nutrition at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Anna Lartey warns that while addressing problems with undernutrition has long been the main focus of African countries and aid organisations, the increasing challenges related to overweight and obesity are not being given sufficient attention.

17 December 2015

This paper quantifies what the environmental impacts would be if the typical US diet were to shift in line with the USDA dietary recommendations. The paper has created a lot of interest and debate since it shows that shifting towards healthier diets in some cases can increase the energy, emission and water intensity of the diet. This is why we wanted to provide a more extensive summary and some commentary below. Please do read, share and add your own comments.

For a comment by the study's lead author Michelle Tom see here and for another comment by Professor Michael Hamm see here

17 December 2015

A new form of antibiotic resistance was recently identified and the results of the ongoing research project have been published in The Lancet Infectious Disease.  The Lancet published the paper as part of their series on antimicrobial access and resistance to coincide with the WHO’s World Antibiotic Awareness Week for Nov 16–22, 2015.

17 December 2015

A new report by the Commons’ Health Committee discusses the potential of implementing a sugary drink tax as a way of combating child obesity. Sugary drinks are the largest sources of sugar for 11 to 18 year-olds and there is increasing concern over the effects of sugar on people’s health, particularly the health of children and teenagers.

2 December 2015

The Food Foundation, a UK think tank that presents policy solutions to the public health challenges produced by the food system, has published its initial response to the Government’s spending review – which sets out departmental spending priorities over the next five years. The response focusses on the Review’s implications for food insecurity and public health spending.

2 December 2015

Over 75 top nutrition scientists and medical experts gathered in Boston in October 2015 at the Finding Common Ground Conference, convened by the non-profit Oldways to try to agree on principles for a healthy diet (primarily aimed at a U.S. audience). Oldways is a food and nutrition education organization aiming to inspire healthy eating through cultural food traditions and lifestyles. The meeting was attended by a diverse range of experts, many vocal proponents of particular types of diets (vegan, paleo, low-fat, Mediterranean etc.) and is described to have led to some heated debates.

2 December 2015

WHO has released a first set of Climate Change and Health Country Profiles that provide a snapshot of up-to-date information about the current and future impacts of climate change on human health. The Climate and Health Country Profile project is an ongoing initiative that supports interested WHO Member States in finalising country profiles through a country consultation process.

16 November 2015

In this paper researchers recommend taking a broader "systems" approach to food policy in order to tackle public health issues as far-ranging as climate change and antibiotic use in food animal production. Three examples are given of a food systems approach to food policy: farm-to-school programs, incorporating sustainability into the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and antibiotic use in food animal production.

9 November 2015

In June 2014, Public Health England (PHE) published ‘Sugar reduction: Responding to the challenge’. This set out what PHE would do to review the evidence across a broad range of areas and identify those where action is most likely to be effective in reducing sugar intakes. The findings from this review and the assessment of the evidence-based actions to reduce sugar consumption are set out in this report “Sugar reduction – the evidence for action”.

9 November 2015

This new report “Planetary Health: Safeguarding Human Health in the Anthropocene Epoch” launched by The Rockefeller Foundation - Lancet Commission argues that changing environmental conditions such as increased carbon dioxide emissions, rampant use of fertilizer and the acidification of the oceans could lead to major health challenges for millions of people. Increasing population, unsustainable consumption and production and the over-exploitation of natural resources are also factors straining the planet's resources and having an impact on human health. 

9 November 2015

The Wellcome Trust has launched its public engagement initiative called The Crunch.  This consists of a website and a range of activities, experiences and discussions will be rolled out in 2016 which focus on food, our health and the planet.

30 October 2015

The EAT initiative in collaboration with the think tank and consultancy Sustainia has released a new publication EAT in Sustainia, discussing the global food system and the challenges, opportunities and solutions we have to understand in relation to the future of food, health and our environment.

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