Facts from W.HO.... that you can't miss


• Globally, as per 2014 data there are more than 1.9 billion overweight adults, at least 600 million of them obese.

• Obesity and overweight pose a major risk for chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke, and certain forms of cancer.

• The key causes are increased consumption of energy-dense foods high in saturated fats and sugars and reduced physical activity.

• The health consequences range from increased risk of premature death, to serious chronic conditions that reduce the overall quality of life.

• Most of the world's population live in countries where overweight and obesity kills more people than underweight.

• Of special concern is the increasing incidence of child obesity. 42 million children under the age of 5 were overweight or obese in 2013.

Often coexisting in some developing countries with under-nutrition, obesity is a complex condition, with serious social and psychological dimensions, affecting virtually all ages and socioeconomic groups.

Increased consumption of more energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods with high levels of sugar and saturated fats, combined with reduced physical activity, have led to obesity rates that have risen three-fold or more since 1980 in some areas of North America, the United Kingdom, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, the Pacific Islands, Australasia, India and China.

The obesity epidemic is not restricted to industrialized societies; this increase is often faster in developing countries than in the developed world.

Why is this happening?

The rising epidemic reflects the profound changes in society and in behavioural patterns of communities over recent decades. While genes are important in determining a person's susceptibility to weight gain, energy balance is determined by calorie intake, nutrient density and physical activity.

Changes in dietary and physical activity patterns are often the result of environmental and societal changes associated with development and lack of supportive policies in sectors such as health, agriculture, transport, urban planning, environment, food processing, distribution, marketing and education.

As incomes rise and populations become more urban, diets high in complex carbohydrates give way to more varied diets with a higher proportion of fats, saturated fats and sugars. At the same time, large shifts towards less physically demanding work have been observed worldwide. Moves towards less physical activity are also found in the increasing use of automated transport, technology in the home, and more passive leisure pursuits.

Thus societal changes and worldwide nutrition transition are driving the obesity epidemic. Economic growth, modernization, urbanization and globalization of food markets are just some of the forces thought to underlie the epidemic.

What can we do about it?

Good news is that these diseases are PREVENTABLE as Obesity is preventable!

Effective weight management for individuals and groups who are at risk of developing obesity involves a range of long-term strategies. These include prevention, weight maintenance, management of co-morbidities and healthy weight loss. They should be part of an integrated, multi-sectoral, population-based approach, which includes environmental support for healthy diets and regular physical activity with a calm mind.

At the individual level, people can:

-limit energy intake from total fats and sugars;

-increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, as well as legumes, lentils, whole grains and nuts;

-move towards complex carbohydrates instead of simple carbohydrates;

-engage in being physically active with a cheerful and focussed mind

The food industry can play a significant role in promoting healthy diets by:

-reducing the fat, sugar and salt content of processed foods;

-ensuring that healthy and nutritious choices are available and affordable to all consumers;

-practicing responsible marketing especially those aimed at children and teenagers;

-ensuring the availability of labels on all food items.

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