obesity

Obesity and poor nutrition are taking a toll on the global population and the economy, warns the United Nation’s food agency. The organization recently told world governments that making investments in improved food health could have significant social and economic gains.

According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, the toll of overweight and obese populations—accounting for more than 1.4 billion people worldwide—result in obesity-related illnesses and lead to lost productivity and mounting health care costs that are costing the world economy more than $1.4 trillion a year. Yahoo reports that the organization calls for improving nutrition, which would boost earnings, “with a benefit-to-cost ratio of almost 13 to 1.”

Obesity rates are rapidly spreading in the world’s low and middle-income countries. Mexico now accounts for the highest obesity rates in the world. But many countries also suffer from malnourishment issues as well as obesity, the organization report. An estimated 868 million people suffer from food scarcity. And for the first time in human history, the number of overweight people and the resulting illnesses are greater than those suffering from lack of food.

The global move to urban living in recent decades, which includes a dependency on packaged, fast and junk foods as well as more sedentary lifestyles, are making the fight against obesity a challenge. But “the returns are high,” said the organization, urging for continued action in improving the nutritional value of food. Ironically, much of the world’s food ends up uneaten. Nearly half is wasted, according to the UN. enough to feed the world’s starving. “Agricultural research and development priorities must be made more nutrition-sensitive, with a stronger focus on nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and animal-source foods,” said the organization.

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