Obesity outnumbers hunger, says FAO

The impacts of climate change, limited local food due to scarce and degraded land and ocean resources, changes in diets and a high dependence on imported foods – often ultra-processed products that are high in salts, sugars, and fats – have led to “extremely high levels of overweight and obesity,” warned Graziano da Silva.

The FAO chief made the remarks to participants during the High Level Political Forum 2019, this Monday (15), in New York.

According to the 2019 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) launched at the forum by FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO, adult obesity in SIDS is almost 60 percent higher than the global average (20.9 percent versus 13.2 percent), and in many Polynesian and Micronesian small island nations, almost one in two adults is obese.

“The growing reliance on food imports is related to the vulnerability of local food systems that support more diversified diets, and to weather-related shocks,” said Graziano da Silva.

Fight against obesity

The latest estimates by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), presented in SOFI,  indicate that the number of obese people in the world (around 830 million) has already outpaced the number of people suffering from hunger. Today, therefore, there are more obese than hungry in the world.

More recent data show that obesity is contributing to four million deaths each year, with an estimated annual cost of $ 2 trillion, similar to the cost of smoking today in the world.

The FAO and the World Bank have developed a set of policies aimed at preventing or reducing obesity rates. These policies include increasing the availability of healthy food, implementing fiscal and price policies to defuse fresh and healthy food, as well as encouraging information and education.

There will be no winners in this battle against obesity without the strong participation of the food industry.” The fight against obesity is – and has to be – a public health issue, but also citizenship, says José Graziano in an article published in this issue. Tuesday in the newspaper Valor Econômico.

“There are factors that explain the direct relationship between food insecurity and obesity, for example: when people have fewer resources to get food, they choose the most economical and affordable food,” he concludes.