Who pays the excesses of obesity?
Who pays the excesses of obesity?
Some 2,000 million adults are overweight or obese in the world, a figure that is increasing at an unprecedented rate and already evidences a public health crisis of global dimensions, according to the World Federation of Obesity
“Obesity affects millions of people, even more than those without food. It may be the main public health problem, but it receives very little attention and funds, ”said Tim Lobstein, director of Policies of the World Federation of Obesity, which brings together more than fifty associations dedicated to the study and treatment of this problem.
The latest UN estimates speak of 672 million obese adults in 2016, 13% of the world’s population that, like other overweight people, has an abnormal accumulation of fat.
Excess body mass accounts for about 4 million deaths annually, while only obesity costs 2.8% of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to the specialized commission of The Lancet, which warns that malnutrition in all its Forms is the biggest cause of diseases and premature deaths in the world.
Both overweight and obesity are considered risk factors for numerous chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular, diabetes or cancer.
Its prevalence has grown rapidly in the last decade, a trend that does not save low and middle-income countries, even in Africa and Asia, with the lowest rates of obesity.
Lobstein stressed that the increase is greater in places such as the small islands of the Pacific and the Caribbean, or some Gulf countries, “possibly because they are importing many foods and with the rules of the World Trade Organization it is very difficult to prevent the entry of food garbage”.
The transition to an unhealthy diet, influenced by economic development, urbanization, sedentary lifestyle and access to cheap products of poor quality, also occurs in countries such as those that have traditionally followed the Mediterranean diet.
“If you see what children eat in the poor homes of Italy, you will see that they bite a lot between meals and probably in front of the television,” warns the head of the federation, who at a symposium in Rome criticized “the interest of the food industry for maintaining obesity ”, especially that of the little ones.
He explained that in the last two decades the average weight of people in countries such as the United Kingdom or the United States has grown 10 kilograms, an “investment” from the business point of view, since “to maintain body temperature and move you need to eat 15% more calories. ”
Faced with the prejudices of those who see obese people as “irresponsible, vague or impolite,” Lobstein says that there are more and more patient and family organizations that are beginning to talk about a clear social problem.
“The important thing is not to focus on individuals, but on the policies and environments in which we make our choices,” says the expert, who urges to increase and restrict the promotion of unhealthy products, cheaper those that are.
And he sends a message to the industry: “You have to start making the changes that society needs, stop fighting every public health measure or resist while continuing to promote products high in salt, fat or sugar.”
Different specialists participating in the symposium agreed that it is not about trusting the system, but about achieving good governance in which markets adapt to laws and civil society actively participates.
New York University professor Marion Nestle denounced that the food giants, guided by economic performance, have imitated the tobacco industry manual “doubting science, appealing to personal responsibility, calling for self-regulation of sector, financing friendly studies with them and pressing in public ”.
To counteract, this expert echoed calls to end subsidies and outsource costs that benefit large companies, and to strengthen accountability and freedom of information in favor of more sustainable systems.