In a shocking twist of fate, many of the poorest countries in the world are fighting high levels of obesity and a lack of nourishment that leaves people too thin at the same time.
Doctors reveals a third of poor nations face this ‘double burden of malnutrition’ because supermarkets are flooded with ultra-processed food and a modern lifestyle means too many people are failing to exercise.
And the countries least equipped to deal with the problems are those suffering the most – especially in Sub-Sahara Africa and Asia.
The report reckons around 2.3 billion children and adults are overweight, while more than 150 million children have stunted growth.
In real terms, that means one in five of the world’s population is overweight, almost a third of children under four are not developing as expected and one in five women are too thin.
Nutrition reality bites
The study explains families and communities can be impacted both types of malnutrition at the same time, while individuals can fall prey to either type of malnutrition at different times in their lives.
The global study suggests 48 from 126 countries are suffering from both types of malnutrition and 14 have developed the problem since 2010.
Doctors leading the research argue more supermarkets selling less nutritious food are too blame, as well as individuals living less mobile lives and failing to exercise.
“We are facing a new nutrition reality,” says lead author Dr Francesco Branca, director of the department of nutrition for health and development at the World Health Organization.
“We can no longer characterise countries as low-income and undernourished, or high-income and only concerned with obesity.
Cutting out meat, fats and sugars
“All forms of malnutrition have a common denominator – food systems that fail to provide all people with healthy, safe, affordable, and sustainable diets.”
Branca said the solution requires food system changes – including production and processing, , marketing, labelling, and how people consume their food.
“All relevant policies and investments must be radically re-examined,” he said.
Branca added that people need to change to a high quality diet containing:
- fruits vegetables, wholegrains, fibre, nuts, and seeds
- low amounts of animal source foods
- low amounts of processed meats
- low amounts of food and beverages high in energy and added sugar, saturated fat, trans fat and salt