Obesity on the rise as diets change
Gains in the fight against hunger in Asia-Pacific countries are slowing while obesity is on the rise as people in the world’s most populous region, including Filipinos, change their diet, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
The FAO in its Regional Overview on Food Insecurity report said countries of Asia-Pacific must redouble their efforts if the Sustainable Development Goal of zero hunger is to be met by 2030.
The Philippines is among Asia-Pacific countries that met the previous goal of reducing by half the incidence of hunger by 2015, as laid out in the 15-year Millennium Development Goals initiative.
According to the FAO, only 12 percent or 490 million of the region’s population remain undernourished.
“That 12 percent represents some of the poorest and hardest to reach people,” FAO regional representative Kundhavi Kadiresan said in a statement, “So the clock is ticking, but with political will and collective action we can reach our goal of zero hunger.”
The United Nations agency said it was possible to eradicate hunger, provided that a number of steps were followed, particularly by increasing investments in more efficient production methods and agricultural research.
“Most countries in this region are spending too little on agricultural research,” Kadiresan said, “So in order to meet both the zero hunger goal and ensure everyone is well nourished in Asia-Pacific by 2030, we will, collectively, need to put our money where our mouths are to ensure we can meet these twin challenges.”
Also, the FAO report takes into account other aspects of malnutrition arising from poor diets such as the rise in obesity and “hidden hunger” from micronutrient deficiency.
The agency said that while figures differ from country to country, the regional rate of obesity has been increasing by more than 3 percent yearly.
Based on data from the World Health Organization, the prevalence of overweight in the Philippines as of 2014 was close to 20 percent of the population and that of obesity by about 5 percent.
“In a study done in the Philippines, increasing urbanization with association to increasing Westernized food habits such as high fat diets, processed foods and consumption of refined carbohydrates; trade liberalization making available a wide variety of processed and fast foods; increased frequency of eating away from home; influence of mass media and sedentary lifestyles have been implicated in the rise of overweight and obesity,” the report said.