Leaders must take a hard line against powerful commercial interests and rethink global economic incentives within the food system in order to tackle the joint pandemics of obesity, under nutrition and climate change, according to a new report by the Lancet Commission on Obesity. A key recommendation from the Commission is the call to establish a new global treaty on food systems to limit the political influence of Big Food.
Malnutrition in all its forms, including under nutrition and obesity, is by far the biggest cause of ill-health and premature death globally. Both under nutrition and obesity are expected to be made significantly worse by climate change. The report follows the publication (January 17) of the Lancet-EAT Commission, which provided the first scientific targets for a healthy diet within planetary boundaries.
Now, the new report scrutinises the wider systems underpinning the global obesity pandemic, and identifies solutions to address decades of policy failure.
Led by the University of Auckland (New Zealand), the George Washington University (USA), and World Obesity Federation (UK), the new Lancet Commission is the result of a three-year project led by 43 experts from the fields of public health, from 14 countries. Among the actions recommended, the Commission calls for the establishment of a Framework Convention on Food Systems (FCFS) — similar to global conventions for tobacco control and climate change —to restrict the influence of the food industry in policy making and mobilise national action for healthy, equitable and sustainable food systems.
Excess body weight is estimated to affect two billion people worldwide, causing four million deaths, at a cost of $US2 billion annually, or 2.8 per cent of the world’s GDP. At the same time, stunting and wasting affect 155 million and 52 million children worldwide, two billion people suffer from a micronutrient deficiency, and 815 million people are chronically undernourished. In Africa and Asia, under nutrition costs 4-11 per cent of the GDP, the report said.
On the other hand, the prevalence of diabetes has increased in every state from 1990 to 2016. The number of people with diabetes in India increased from 26.0 million in 1990 to 65.0 million in 2016. The most important risk factor for diabetes was overweight to which 36 per cent of the diabetes-related burden could be attributed. The prevalence of overweight in adults in India increased from 9.0 per cent in 1990 to 20.4 per cent in 2016, the prevalence increased in every state of the country.
Similarly, climate change has been viewed as something separate. In reality, they are all driven by the same systems and policies.