Obesity, bad nutrition, climate change 'a triple danger'

An international expert panel says a red meat tax would help tackle global pandemics of obesity under-nutrition and climate change

An international expert panel says a red meat tax would help tackle global pandemics of obesity under-nutrition and climate change

A US$1 billion fund and action strategies targeting food policy and production are urgently needed to support health, the environment and economic well-being, said the report by the Lancet Commission on Obesity, a panel of experts in agriculture, economics, human rights and other fields.

According to the report, the issues of malnutrition and climate change are linked.

The report was written by The Lancet Commission on Obesity and published in The Lancet on January 27. Meanwhile, nearly half of children under the age of five don't get needed nutrients - mostly in low- and middle-income countries - even as average weight increases.

The research team - co-chaired by Swinburn and obesity prevention researcher William Dietz from George Washington University - began investigating their project three years ago, initially with a sole mandate to explore the drivers of obesity. "This report makes it clear that governments must act to curb food industry practices that promote poor health and damage the environment".

"A Framework Convention on Food Systems would help empower individual nations against vested commercial interests, redirect the vast subsidies that now benefit unhealthy industries, and provide full transparency".

According to a recent World Bank report, 148 million Indians will be living in severe climate change hotspots by 2050, and the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has acknowledged that there is a perceptible rise in extreme weather events in recent decades and documented a gradual, significant rise in the annual mean temperature from 2000 onward.

Specifically on obesity, the 62-page report says the prevalence of obesity is rising in every region of the world.

Ordinarily, these public health dangers are viewed as separate, even opposing problems, but the authors of the new report insist otherwise. While they do not contribute new research on nutrition and climate change, they cite existing publications to advocate for change in public policy.

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"A food system that secures a better diet for this and the immediate next generations will save millions of lives and, at the same time, help save the planet". "The energy required for the production, harvesting, transportation, and packaging of wasted foods also generates more than 3.3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide annually", according to the report, "making food wastage the third top emitter after the United States of America and China".

Recommendations included a steep reduction in meat consumption and lower dairy intake and were met with a mixed reaction from the food sector.

Professor Boyd Swinburn of the University of Auckland says, 'Until now, undernutrition and obesity have been seen as polar opposites of either too few or too many calories. To do all this, they propose an elegant solution: an global treaty modeled on the one that helped curb smoking worldwide.

But Tim Rycroft, of the Food and Drink Federation, said: "Drawing a comparison between tobacco and food is deeply irresponsible". Food and beverage giants have already been shifting toward healthier products and have been cutting fat and sodium levels.

The establishment of such a framework would restrict the influence of the food industry on policy and mobilise action for healthy, equitable and sustainable systems. Professor William Dietz of George Washington University in the United States, a report author, said: "In 50 years, if we are not able to reduce this, we will have this incredible scourge of both obesity and undernutrition and the planet will be burning".

"The similarities with Big Tobacco lie in the damage they induce and the behaviours of the corporations that profit from them".

"The industry hasn't been forced to deal with its climate effects", said University of North Carolina researcher Barry Popkin, who was not involved with the report.

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