Poor nutrition kills in every country in the world

Nutrient deficiencies, overweight, excess sugar and fat ... No country in the world is meeting the WHO goals in the fight against malnutrition, which has become one of the leading risk factors for death.

Poor nutrition kills in every country in the world
Poor nutrition

Chronic malnutrition, stunted growth, nutrient deficiency, thinness, overweight or obesity: diet-related health problems affect, in one form or another, every country in the world. A universal scourge, malnutrition affects rich and poor, men and women, at all ages. "It is one of the first risk factors for disease and death, weighing more than air pollution or smoking," warns Jessica Fanzo, researcher at Johns Hopkins University and lead author of the report on nutrition World 2018, released Thursday.

This vast study, carried out every year since 2014, compiles, country by country, all known statistical data on malnutrition in order to raise awareness and guide public policies. "On the whole planet, the burden of malnutrition remains high and progress is slow", write the experts, denouncing "an unacceptable situation".

Children under 5 very affected

Thus, most countries seem unlikely to meet the targets set by the World Health Organization (WHO) to improve nutrition in mothers, infants and young children by 2025. We are doing so. has six (stunting, anemia, underweight, overweight, breastfeeding and wasting). Only 94 of 194 countries are on track to meet at least one of these goals. No country is on the right track for adult obesity and anemia. None have made progress towards meeting the six targets.

Despite some progress, the general picture is grim. Children under five still suffer from multiple forms of malnutrition: 150 million of them are stunted (a declining number except in Africa), 50 million are wasted and 38 million are overweight. Rates vary widely by region, and even within countries. 20 million babies are born underweight every year. At the same time, overweight and obesity have reached a record level, approaching 40%. Women are more affected than men.

Improve diets

To combat this scourge, experts suggest "urgently paying special attention to improving diets." Because the data collected shows that "the population does not eat well". And it starts very early: Exclusive breastfeeding affects only 41% of infants, and sales of infant milk are increasing rapidly, suggesting a significant change in the diet of babies and young children. Between 6 and 23 months, less than one in five children are fed the minimum acceptable diet criteria.

Poor eating habits are universal, experts say. Regardless of their level of wealth, school-age children, adolescents and adults eat too many refined grains and sugary foods and drinks, and not enough healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. An analysis of more than 23,000 packaged food products shows that 69% of them are of relatively poor nutritional quality, with the proportion higher in low- and middle-income countries.

Means of action exist, say the researchers, who cite taxes on sugary drinks as examples as well as policies aimed at improving the composition of products. In this fight, a particular effort should be focused on adolescents, an age when nutrient requirements are increasing.

In France, the situation is described as "stagnant or deteriorated" on several WHO targets: anemia in women of reproductive age, obesity in adults, and male diabetes. And researchers regret that our country does not collect enough data - especially when it comes to children's diets.

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