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.

30 October 2015

The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified processed meat in Group 1 of carcinogenic substances– the highest evidence level (“based on sufficient evidence”). Red meat is placed in Group 2A as probably carcinogenic (based on limited evidence). The new classification is announced in a research summary report published in The Lancet Oncology 26 October 2015 where WHO summarises its review of all scientific evidence on which substances can be linked to any type of cancer in humans. 

30 October 2015

In a joint project researchers from the University Halle-Wittenberg (Germany) looked at the direct medical treatment costs of nutrition-associated diseases related to the overconsumption of sugars, salt and saturated fatty acids. In all, the team identified 22 clinical endpoints with 48 risk-outcome pairs.

30 September 2015

A systematic evidence review by researchers at the University of Cambridge’s Behaviour and Health Research Unit, investigates the influence of portion, package and tableware size on food consumption.

31 July 2015

This Bloomberg article and video interview discusses the new recommendations published to inform the development of the 2015 US dietary guidelines.

26 June 2015

This report is the latest in The Lancet’s Commission on Health and Climate Change series.

The premise of this report is that tackling climate change could be the “single greatest health opportunity in the 21st century”. Climate change is described as a medical emergency that could undermine 50 years of global health gains and Richard Horton (The Lancet editor) states that this is the 'most ambitious and important Lancet Commission we have published'.

The chapters in the report are as follows:

12 June 2015

This report was produced by the International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems, IPES-Food -a new transdisciplinary initiative to support, inform and advise the policy debate on how to reform food systems across the world.

20 May 2015

The share of the population that is overweight or obese is increasing, especially in the emerging economies of the developing world. This report explores policies to combat obesity.  Specifically, it analyses the effects of relative price changes between different types of foods on consumer behaviour in high-income and emerging economies (Brazil, China, Republic of Korea and Mexico). The researchers look into the causes of increasing obesity and changes to the retail prices of foods and ask if healthy eating is becoming a luxury in emerging markets, as has been the trend in high-income countries.

20 April 2015

This paper shows that egg consumption may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Earlier research has shown links between lifestyle habits, such as exercise and nutrition, and a reduction of the disease but this study has showed that egg consumption was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes as well as with lower blood glucose levels.

19 April 2015

The 2015 World Health Day took place on April 7th, and it focused on the theme of Food Safety. With this day in mind, the  Global Climate and Health Alliance has published a new briefing paper on climate change and food safety.

19 April 2015

This paper finds that consumption of high-fat yoghurt and cheese are linked to reduced risks of developing type 2 diabetes – reducing these risks by as much as a fifth. High meat consumption, on the other hand, is linked to a higher risk, regardless of the fat content of the meat. These results are in line with previous studies of eating habits that indicated a link between high consumption of dairy products and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes.

31 March 2015

The World Health Organisation has called on countries to reduced sugar intakes among their child and adult populations.  It recommends that people should obtain no more than 10% of their daily calories from free sugars, and cutting intakes to below 5% would provide additional benefits.

31 March 2015

The British government has failed to tackle poor nutrition and diet, and should do more to take public health nutrition into consideration in every area of policy, says a report by the UK Coronary Prevention Group, a charity dedicated to preventing heart disease through healthy lifestyles.

31 March 2015

In Africa and Latin America, the production of beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) is highly vulnerable to climate change impacts, which include higher temperatures and more frequent drought. Climate modeling suggests that, over the next several decades, the area suited for this crop in eastern and central Africa could shrink up to 50% by 2050.

26 March 2015

This blog-post by Georgetown University professor Thomas Sherman discusses what he calls the “surprise feature” of considering sustainability in the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, suggested by the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

In addition to the blog-post, Georgetown university’s Food Studies Group has published a series of videos on what the new dietary recommendations mean.

26 March 2015

This research from Duke University presents policymakers with a more accurate framework for estimating the costs of a broad range of health, climate and environmental damages linked to emissions from fossil fuels, industry, biomass burning and agriculture.

Keywords:
26 February 2015

This paper, entitled Dietary quality among men and women in 187 countries in 1990 and 2010: a systematic assessment argues that although worldwide, consumption of healthy foods such as fruit and vegetables has improved during the past two decades, it has been outpaced in most regions by the increased intake of unhealthy foods such as processed meat and sweetened drinks.

26 February 2015

This new series of papers from the Lancet summarises the latest available knowledge on obesity and what can be done to address the problem. The series introduction describes how today’s food environments exploits people’s biological, psychological, social, and economic vulnerabilities, making it easier for them to eat unhealthy foods. This in turn reinforces preferences and demands for foods of poor nutritional quality, furthering the unhealthy food environments. The authors call for regulatory actions from governments and increased efforts from industry and civil society to break these vicious cycles.

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