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Opinion

Obesity outweighs starvation on global scale

Nutrition-related health news has always seemed to be centred on developing nations. Malnutrition and starvation have been the main topic of discussion because it affects over 1 billion people a year. But recent reports show that 1.5 billion people suffer from health issues such as strokes, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and heart disease caused by obesity.

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By Amy Van Veen (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: January 9, 2013

Obesity is now a greater cause of death on a global scale than malnutrition.

And there you have it – the least surprising fact of 2013.

Nutrition-related health news has always seemed to be centred on developing nations. Malnutrition and starvation have been the main topic of discussion because it affects over 1 billion people a year. But recent reports show that 1.5 billion people suffer from health issues such as strokes, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and heart disease caused by obesity.

While world health organizations have waged a war on malnutrition, another killer has gone on the rise. According to The Telegraph, the death rate of malnutrition has been successfully lowered by two-thirds in the past 10 years.

Certainly it’s notable that this shift from malnutrition to obesity as the major health concern is occurring in nations that have recently experienced economic prosperity, but what about the nations that have had citizens suffering from obesity for years?

Where there’s supposed prosperity, people often look for convenience. And those handy-dandy, pre-packaged, ready-made products give the semblance of a great meal for a great deal.

They litter grocery stores across North America – the boxes offering low-cal, low-carb options that may also be high-sugar, high-salt. While the bright-coloured, bolded writing may promise a cut of one thing that almost always means a rise in something else. Low fats that don’t specify which kind of fat is lower. One hundred calories on a much lower serving than the average person takes. And yet, these are the convenient options that successful, well-paid citizens are purchasing.

Why is it, then, that obesity has become noticed only now that it has surpassed malnutrition? Shouldn’t it always be on the minds of major health organizations? What about the educations of millions of North Americans who choose a fried breakfast over fresh fruit?

Does anyone remember Jamie Oliver’s attempt to change American school cafeterias? In his second U.S. season, his attempt to change the way kids look at food was replaced by his attempt to even get into the schools. School district boards shut him down and radio DJs put up brick walls of ignorance to shut down his attempts.

What has been done since? When will the pandemic of obesity in “developed” nations be enough of a problem to require true change?

Education is the biggest defence when consumers are faced with so many unhealthy options disguised as good for everyone. What may seem like a good idea now could result in detrimental health issues and skyrocketing medical bills in a few years.

Stephen Adams of The Telegraph notes, “[E]ating too much is now a more serious risk to the health of populations than eating poorly.”

However, eating too much and eating poorly are really one in the same. Poor nutrition can easily occur when people choose unbalanced diets and ignore the elementary school lessons of primary food groups, recommended servings and portion sizes. And considering the prevalence of obesity that has been present in North America and other nations for so long, it’s surprising that the discussion is only now taking place.

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