Nearly 4 billion people likely to be overweight, 1.5 million obese by 2050 with current diet trends

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Nearly 4 billion people likely to be overweight, 1.5 million obese by 2050 with current diet trends


Nearly 4 billion people likely to be overweight, 1.5 million obese by 2050 with current diet trends&nbsp | &nbspPhoto Credit:&nbspiStock Images

Key Highlights

  • The food we eat does have an impact on all aspects of our health, including our weight
  • Experts suggest that if current eating habits continue, more than 4 billion people worldwide will be overweight by 2050
  • The gap between food wastage, and scarcity will also widen with time

New Delhi: Obesity has already become a global epidemic. Being obese comes with its own set of problems, that are way beyond cosmetic. Obesity has been found to be a major risk factor for life-long conditions such as type 2 diabetes, and chronic conditions such as some forms of cancer. Obesity has also been linked to a high risk of contraction and complications due to the ongoing pandemic of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The food we eat has a direct link with obesity or being overweight. Experts recommend a healthy, balanced diet to keep weight off and keep the body healthy. However, over the last few years, or a decade or two, people’s eating patterns and diet trends have changed completely, and researchers are now worried that with the way people are eating currently, the possibility of people being overweight or obese, in increasing manifold. 

Researchers assess the consequences of current nutrition transition

A new study shows that as one part of the world starves, or even has just enough to feed their stomach, others are stuffed, and are wasting food – and this gap is only likely to worsen. The study further emphasised that the pressure on the environment will go up as food waste increases. 

According to researchers from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), as they assessed the consequences of the current nutrition transition, from scarce starch-based diets towards processed foods, animal products, they tried to understand the estimates for under, and overweight, food consumption and waste. 

The findings of the study were rather startling. It was found that by 2050, more than 4 billion people could be overweight, 1.5 billion of them could be obese, and 500 million people could continue to be underweight.

The study was published in Scientific Reports. 

Food systems responsible for a third of global greenhouse emissions

Crop and grazing land for food production cover about one-third of the global land area and our food system is responsible for up to a third of global greenhouse gas emissions. According to the study, if people continue to eat, and waste food the way they are, global food demand will go up between 2010 and 2050. the demand for animal products is likely to double, which will also impact the requirement of land. 

“Using the same area of land, we could produce much more plant-based food for humans than animal-based food,” explains co-author Alexander Popp, head of PIK’s Land Use Management Research Group.

“To put it in a very simplistic way: If more people eat more meat, there’s less plant-based food for the others – plus we need more land for food production which can lead to forests being cut down. And greenhouse gas emissions rise as a consequence of keeping more animals.”

“Unhealthy diets are the world’s largest health risk”

According to co-author Sabine Gabrysch, head of PIK’s Research Department on Climate Resilience, “Unhealthy diets are the world’s largest health risks.” “While many countries in Asia and Africa currently still struggle with undernutrition and associated health problems, they are increasingly also faced with overweight, and as a consequence, with a rising burden of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer,” she adds.

The current study should be able to provide people with the right outlook towards their diet, and also help governments and policymakers to help people find a way to sustainable and healthy living. 

Sabine Gabrysch concluded by saying, “We urgently need political measures to create an environment that promotes healthy eating habits. This could include binding regulations that limit the marketing of unhealthy snacks and promote sustainable and healthy meals in schools, hospitals and canteens. A stronger focus on nutrition education is also key, from early education in kindergarten to counseling by medical doctors and nurses. What we eat is of vital importance – both for our own health and that of our planet.”

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