Obesity and undernourishment: the two faces of malnutrition

Obesity and undernourishment the two faces of malnutrition
Obesity and undernourishment the two faces of malnutrition

A series of studies published in the medical journal The Lancet by researchers, mission leaders by the World Health Organization (WHO), point to the devastating and terrible consequences of malnutrition in the world.

The advent of ultra-processed foods, saturated in empty calories and devoid of essential nutrients, is the cause of the emergence in some poor countries, and to a lesser extent in developed countries, of the simultaneous existence, in the same family or in the same individual, stunting usually caused by undernourishment and severe obesity which is usually the result of overeating. This phenomenon is seen when the diet is too rich in calories and empty of necessary compounds such as amino acids and essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, or even trace elements. The studies are published in the journal The Lancet.

A devastating coexistence

In more than a third of poor countries, mainly located in sub-Saharan Africa, South and East Asia, new forms of malnutrition have appeared in recent decades. If hunger in the world has always been a major problem in these regions, we are now witnessing, thanks to the advent of fast foods and hyper-industrialized food, the combination of overweight and delay growth. If even one of these conditions already poses serious health concerns, sometimes serious, when they act in synergy, it is a disaster. These two public health problems are causing damage over several generations. We can therefore imagine that the offspring of people with these new forms of malnutrition end up with exacerbated health problems.

Food systems involved

The time for poor and undernourished rich countries is over. You would think it is a good thing. Well not really. According to the director of the Nutrition for Health and Development Department of the World Health Organization, “All forms of malnutrition have one common denominator, namely food systems that do not provide people with healthy, safe, sustainable food. and at an affordable price. To make a difference, action will need to be taken at various levels of the food system – from production and processing to consumption and waste, including sales, distribution, pricing, marketing and labeling. . All policies and investments in this area will have to be radically reviewed. “. We must therefore rethink the whole functioning of our food systems. The challenge is not to eradicate hunger from the world, but to eradicate malnutrition in all its forms.

How to fight?

The common denominator of these new forms of malnutrition is the profound modification of the food supply. We must guarantee access to healthy and varied food via our food systems of the future and limit that to ultra-processed industrial food. Markets are becoming scarce and supermarkets are multiplying, which is not inevitable. Some brands base their trade on fresh products and we must, if we want to eat well, to promote these chains for the benefit of others. Without this, the double burden of malnutrition (undernourishment and overweight) in pregnant women, then in young children and in children exacerbates easily preventable health problems with quality food at all stages of life. It still has to be available and economically accessible.

According to the WHO, “This may include, for example, improved prenatal care and breastfeeding practices, social assistance or new policies for the agricultural and food systems whose main objective is Healthy eating. The problem is systemic and therefore all stakeholders must get their hands dirty, from governments to civil society, including academics, the media, donors and the private sector. Dr. Branca then concludes that “given the political economy of food, the commodification of food systems and the growth of inequality in the world, an enlarged community of actors will be necessary to face the new reality in nutrition. These actors must work interconnected on a global scale and reinforce each other. Without a profound transformation of food systems, the economic, social and environmental costs of inaction will prevent the growth and development of people and societies for decades. ”

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