Nearly 3 billion people across 193 countries have low-quality diets lacking the required vitamins and minerals and this poses serious health risks while slowing economic and development progress, according to a new report by the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition.
The report titled "Food Systems and Diets: Facing the Challenges of the 21st Century" said that such poor-quality diets fuel the increasing rates of obesity, chronic conditions like high blood pressure and non-communicable diseases like diabetes and heart disease. It was presented Friday at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
“Nutrition is not about just feeding people, it is about powering life and the growth of individuals, communities and nations,” John Kufuor, former president of Ghana and co-chair of the Global Panel, said in a statement. “If we do not reshape food systems to prioritize nutrition, we are missing an opportunity to create a stronger, healthier and more prosperous future.”
The report predicted that in 20 years the situation would worsen dramatically. Unless there are changes in policies by 2030, the report said that nearly one-third of the projected world population by then would be either overweight or obese.
Data from the Global Panel, an independent team of experts dealing with challenges in nutrition and food security around the world, showed that income growth can help reduce hunger but that does not guarantee a high-quality diet. The report added that the sale of ultraprocessed food and beverages had risen in high-income countries by more than half by 2015 when compared to 2000.
The panel blamed the increased risks on the crumbling food systems in place. Food systems include how the food is cultivated, transported, processed and marketed. The report said that the current systems concentrate more on quantity rather than quality.
“The level of effort required to address this problem is not dissimilar to the sort of effort that has been used by the international community to address the issues of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other pandemic diseases,” John Beddington, former U.K. chief scientific advisor and co-chair of the Global Panel, said in the statement.