Perhaps the biggest paradox in human history—a fairly recent research has concluded that the number of overweight people in the world is approximately the same as the number of underweight people. Obesity has been declared a raging epidemic in most developed countries, especially USA. And the definition of malnutrition has changed.
Today, the malnourished also belong to the overweight/obese category.
Surprised as to how an overweight person could possibly be malnourished?
Economic inequality has made sure the poor still don’t have access to basic nutrients like carbohydrates, fats, and proteins; and the obese lack significant nutrients in their diet, despite having access to surplus amounts of inexpensive, processed food.
As if it isn’t bad enough that the developing countries have fared so miserably in improving food availability and enhancing nutrition for their people, the developed countries have joined the bandwagon too. As undernourishment and poverty has decreased over the years, over-consumption has increased too, chiefly among the lower- and middle-income groups in developing nations. This is bad news, especially now that developing countries too have to deal with all forms of malnutrition: undernourishment, micronutrient deficiency, and obesity!
So now, both the overweight and underweight are victims to malnutrition. Micronutrient deficiency, defined as a manifestation of a lack of one or more micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals, has crossed over to developed nations as well. Now more than half of the world combats disease and conditions connected to hunger, obesity, and micronutrient deficiency. But it isn’t that our planet is facing a food shortage. The issue here is inequitable distribution.
Here’s what you need to know:
- There is enough food for everyone on the planet- approximately 2800 kcal/person/day! But the food supply hasn’t been equally divided, because of which there are still about 842 million starving every day, and 1.5 billion who are obese.
- One third of food is wasted even before consumption. Wastage in the developed world is the result of food spoilage that occurs at storage facilities and grocery stores, while in the developing countries is because of inefficient storage facilities post harvest.
- Food is used for first-generation biofuels like bio-ethanol, which only requires the sugar in corn for process. The rest of the protein-rich byproduct that can be fed to livestock goes to waste.
- Corporations control food trade. Only about four companies produce 58% of the world’s seeds, four firms conduct about 97% of poultry genetics and research, and only four manufacture 60% of the agrochemicals required in farming.
- Conversion of forest land into agricultural land has resulted in a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions and overexploitation of the water bodies has depleted marine life.
Micronutrient deficiency is the common denominator for the malnourished in the developed and developing countries. And if anyone is to be blamed for this, it should be the global food system. While it may not be possible to fix it permanently, perhaps, the biggest change could be that the governments adopt a more ‘nutrient-friendly’ approach, and revise all policies related to food production and supply, keeping in mind the welfare of their people.
Piyush Agarwal is from “The Wellness Corner”. The Wellness Corner is your personal health assistant offers the complete solution for corporate wellness benefits program. It works as a platform to keep its users engaged with huge library of health & wellness content, health risk assessment, well-rounded guided wellness programs.