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Overweight people now outnumber the starving

Wednesday, August 16, 2006 by: NewsTarget
Tags: obesity, health trends, health news

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(NewsTarget) University of North Carolina professor Barry Popkin reported to the International Association of Agricultural Economists that at the number of overweight people currently surpasses the number of starving people worldwide.

According to Popkin's report, all of the world's nations -- regardless of economic status -- have failed to address the obesity epidemic, and notes it affects 1 billion of the world's population and is spreading quickly. Conversely, the rate of hunger is slowing and the undernourished number about 800 million.

Professor Tony Barnett, head of the diabetes and obesity group at Birmingham University, said it was clear that "this is not just happening in developed countries, the developing world also has serious problems."

"The biggest increases are being seen in parts of Asia with certain populations more susceptible than others," he said. "If we do not get to grips with this, problems associated with obesity, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, are going to increase rapidly."

"Contrary to popular belief," explained Mike Adams, a holistic nutritionist and author of the Honest Food Guide, "most overweight people are simultaneously malnourished. They've been made fat by consuming empty calories that lack any real nutrition."

Popkin reported that nations that had previously enjoyed a relatively healthy population were leaning toward having an overweight population. China, for example, has shown a major shift from diets rich in cereals to ones rich in animal fats and oils. Physical work levels have also dropped, use of motorized transportation has increased, and television watching has gone up.

Governments should combat the problem, Popkin said, through strategies such as using prices to steer people toward healthier food choices.

"For instance, if we charge money for every calorie of soft drink and fruit drink that was consumed, people would consume less of it," he said. "If we subsidize fruit and vegetable production, people would consume more of it and we would have a healthier diet."

Professor Benjamin Senauer of the University of Minnesota agreed with Popkin, citing a study he did of U.S. obesity rates compared to those in Japan.

"The average Japanese household spends almost a quarter of its income on food compared to under 14 percent in the U.S.," he said, adding that exercise also played an important role in the health differences. "Japanese cities are based on efficient public transportation and walking. The average American commutes to work, drives to the supermarket and does as little walking as possible."


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