Friday, September 21, 2007


This is what I learnt today from the
September 2007 issue of
Scientific American.


Worldwide, more than 1.3 billion people are overweight, whereas only about 800 million are underweight.

The arrival of unhealthy Western diets and sedentary Western lifestyles in developing nations has had a dramatic effect, in just one generation,on the diet and health of millions. This is paving the way for a public health catastrophe, leading to an upsurge in diabetes, heart disease and other illnesses.

For most developing nations, obesity has now emerged as a more serious health threat than hunger. Just as in the US, it is predominantly a problem of the poor.

Many governments and industries are contributing to the problem by flooding developing countries with cheap sweeteners, oils and meat while doing nothing to promote the consumption of fruits and vegetables.

Sweetened beverages - Coca-Cola, Pepsi and the like - are one of the biggest contributors to the obesity epidemic in the Third World.

The spread of supermarkets in the developing world has greatly increased the availability of sweetened beverages and processed foods.

The surge in consumption of animal-source foods means that, by 2020, developing countries are expected to produce nearly two-thirds of the world's meat and half its milk.

No country in modern times has succeeded in reducing the number of its citizens who are overweight or obese. In fact, the obesity epidemic is accelerating.

'Unless strong preventive policies are undertaken, the medical costs of illnesses caused by obesity could bring down the economies of China, India and many other developing countries.


More than 800 million people live every day with hunger - "food insecurity" - as a constant companion. Yet the world produces enough food to meet the energy and protein needs of every living person.

It is poverty that renders millions unable to buy or grow adequate food. Although not all poor people are hungry, almost all hungry people are poor. 75% of them live in the rural areas of developing countries. The highest percentage are in Africa; the largest absolute number in the Asia-Pacific region.

Drought is the leading cause of hunger worldwide.

Armed conflicts are precipitating an increasing number of food crises, accounting for 35% of food emergencies.

Hunger and malnutrition affects two groups of people disproportionately - pre-school children, and women and girls.

18% all hungry people are children younger than five.

More than 60% of the world's hungry are female. Every day 300 women die during childbirth because of iron deficiency.

According to FAO statistics, there were an annual average of 854 million undernourished people in our world in the years 2001-2003. Of these, 820 million were in developing countries, 2.5 million in transition countries (eg former members of the Soviet Union) and nine million in industrial countries.

Recent statistics show that in developing countries, 27% of children younger than five are underweight and 31% are stunted.

At the 1996 World Food Summit, political leaders from virtually every country agreed to reduce the number of hungry people by half in the period from 1990-2015. Five years later, they took stock of their progress. China had made strides but over half the countries, mainly in sub-Saharan Africa, had more hungry people. On a global level, the total number of hungry had not changed significantly. Promises were renewed but very little new action has been taken since.


According to the UN more than 6.5 billion people in habit our planet today. They estimate that by 2050, the population will be between 7.3-10.7 billion people. They anticipate that, sometime after 2200, the world population will stabilise at 10 billion inhabitants.

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