While nutritional status has improved worldwide over the past fiftyyears, new nutrition-related problems have also emerged. In an articlerecently published in The Journal of Nutrition, Eileen Kennedy DSc, RD,dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at TuftsUniversity, offers an updated view of global nutrition. She describeshow global demographic, epidemiological, and nutritional transitionshave led to a unique situation in which food insecurity (uncertain orscarce access to safe and healthy food) exists side by side withproblems of obesity and chronic nutrition-related diseases, even in thesame household. Kennedy, former acting undersecretary at the UnitedStates Department of Agriculture, calls for new research to addressthis emerging and complex new problem.
"A global nutrition transition has and is occurring on a continuum.While problems of under-consumption and poor nutritional statuscontinue to exist, increasingly problems of diet/chronic diseases areemerging as significant public health issues globally," says Kennedy. Ademographic shift has resulted in increased life expectancy in manycountries, and in some countries, this means an older population.Closely tied with this change in age structure is an epidemiologicalshift which has decreased communicable diseases and increased chronicdiseases, such as diabetes and hypertension, she reports.
"An increase in availability of more high-fat and sugar-ladenfoods has led to a surge of nutrition-related chronic diseases aroundthe world. At the same time that diets have changed, physical activityhas decreased. The highest rates of overweight and obesity are nowoften found in low-income groups. Many populations have been left inthe midst of an obesity crisis that exists with food insecurity andunder-nutrition," Kennedy summarizes. "Chronic diseases can no longerbe labeled as 'diseases of affluence.' Unfortunately, the message thatthe global nutrition profile is changing hasn't reached policy makers,and they need to be aware that it is occurring."
In a separate article published in the May 2005 AmericanJournal of Clinical Nutrition, Kennedy and co-author Linda Meyers, PhD,Director of the Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, notethat large parts of the developing world are plagued with micronutrientdeficiencies. "Deficiencies of micronutrients, such as iron, iodine,zinc and vitamin A, contribute to 'hidden hunger' and while thestatistics on micronutrient status for women in developing countriesare scarce," she says, "it is clear that a large percentage of womenfrom developing countries suffer negative health and nutritionconsequences."
The real challenge, Kennedy says, will be to identify new waysof dealing with the new nutrition realities of diet-related chronicdiseases while also addressing under-nutrition, food insecurity andhunger. Investment in applied nutrition research will be essential increating and promoting healthy lifestyle initiatives.
Kennedy, E. The Journal ofNutrition; 2005; 135: 913-915. "The Global Face of Nutrition: What CanGovernments and Industry Do?"
Kennedy, E., Meyers L. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.2005; 81 (suppl): 1194S-7S. "Dietary Reference Intakes: development anduses for assessment of micronutrient status of women--a globalperspective."
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