Future diets: obesity rising to alarming levels around the world
This report (PDF) by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), highlights dramatic increases in the numbers of overweight or obese people in the past 30 years. Previously considered a problem in richer countries, the biggest rises are in middle income countries and the developing world. Diets are changing wherever incomes are rising in the developing world, with a marked shift from cereals and tubers to meat, fats and sugar, as well as fruit and vegetables. At the same time, under-consumption of dietary energy, protein and micronutrients is still a problem for hundreds of millions of people. Three key issues emerge from this study: 1) Diets and their influences are very varied. This implies that while the forces of globalisation have led to a creeping homogenisation in diets, their continued variation suggests that there is still scope for policies that can influence the food choices that people make; 2) Future diets that are rich in animal products, especially meat, will push up prices for meat, but surprisingly, not for grains. This suggests that future diets may matter more for public health than for agriculture; and 3) There seems to be little will among public and leaders to take the determined action that is needed to influence future diets, but that may change in the face of the serious health implications. Combinations of moderate measures in education, prices and regulation may achieve far more than drastic action of any one type.