World Health Organization Study Seeks Prevention of Obesity

World Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO) seeks the prevention of obesity after findings revealed by a new study. The new study came out on Monday and the recommendations from the WHO are that governments should slow the obesity epidemic by regulating fast food globally.

The organization believes governments should have more control, and that if they did they could prevent or reverse the growing obesity problem around the world. They cite fast food culprits like burgers, chips and drinks as contributors to the problem. Obesity is associated with conditions that lead to long term health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Robert De Vogli from California led the study, and he believes that unless steps are taken to avoid obesity there will be consequences for all governments, public health, and growth of the world, namely in the economic arena. The WHO wants governments to be proactive and do something to prevent the problem rather than waiting until obesity is rampant and even more costly for individuals, health and society. Prevention is key as so many diets fail and people are unable to lose weight after they have gained it.

Some policies that may be helpful include the required sale of fresh and healthy foods, making it less lucrative to sell processed foods and drinks, and taking away cash or subsidies to those companies using more than needed or unusually high amounts of fertilizers, pesticides, chemicals and antibiotics. Controlling or restricting the advertising of fast food commodities directed at children may also be helpful.

There has been research analyzing the relationship between Body Mass Index (BMI) and  the number of fast food purchases that an individual makes. Not surprisingly, BMI increased in countries with more income to spend on fast food and where people made fast food purchases more often. Convenience of fast food for people with more money seems to be associated overall with higher BMIs. This data from the WHO study was collected from wealthy countries but was also seen in and relevant to developing countries as well. The WHO seeks to prevent obesity with this research.

The number of fast food take out times per person increased where deregulation and globalization have occurred. Big gains were seen in Canada, Australia, Ireland and New Zealand, with countries like Italy, Netherlands, Greece and Belgium having fewer transactions due to tighter regulations. This finding by the WHO and its Department of Nutrition shows how important the government can be to the health of its people.

Policies that help people are needed across many areas including education, social welfare, health, agriculture and industry. It is not just fast food that plays a role but the role of activity and exercise in maintaining good health is very important as well.

Developing countries where the diet is changing and becoming more globalized, going from a cereal-based diet to one with more fat, sugar and processed foods could be detrimental and needs to be addressed for the health of these populations.

Recent studies suggesting that being overweight by school age, namely by kindergarten, leads to obesity in teenagers and possibly even adults, explain why parents and children need to be proactive before this time.

These risks are established early in life and now that this is known, steps should be taken to implement preventive measures early on. Maternal diet and the diet of  infants and early toddlers  becomes paramount. Findings like these explain why the WHO  seeks to prevent obesity and its associated negative effects on health before it takes hold.

By Kim Troike

Sources:

Reuters

NPR.org

NYTimes

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