The obesity boom that is sweeping the world is leading to another nutritional problem, that of malnutrition.
The problem of malnutrition is being fuelled both by obesity as well as starvation.
Malnutrition refers to both undernutrition (subnutrition) and overnutrition.
Individuals are malnourished, or suffer from undernutrition if their diet does not contain enough calories and protein for maintenance and growth, or they cannot fully utilize the food they eat due to some form of illness.
The report’s authors said that being malnourished was “the new normal”.
Staggering ‘global challenge’
The 2016 Global Nutrition Report said 44% of countries were now experiencing “very serious levels” of both under-nutrition and obesity.
The study, that involved a total of 129 countries, revealed that one in three people suffered from malnutrition in some form.
Malnutrition has usually been associated with those children who are do not get enough to eat or are starving. As a result, such children have stunted growth and are vulnerable to disease and infection.
These are still major problems in this field. However, a lot of progress has been made in this area in the last few years.
The report’s authors instead highlighted the “staggering global challenge” that the rising levels of obesity are posing.
The increase in obesity is now happening in every region of the world and in nearly every country, the report’s authors said.
The report said that hundreds of people are suffering from malnutrition because they are overweight and have a diet that is too rich in sugar, salt or cholesterol.
Many countries around the world are on course to meet targets to reduce stunted growth in malnourished children and also the number of underweight children. However, very few countries are making progress in dealing with obesity and associated illnesses such as heart disease.
Professor Corinna Hawkes, who co-chaired the research, said the study was “redefining what the world thinks of as being malnourished”.
“Malnutrition literally means bad nutrition – that’s anyone who isn’t adequately nourished.
“You have outcomes like you are too thin, you’re not growing fast enough… or it could mean that you’re overweight or you have high blood sugar, which leads to diabetes,” she said.
The report said that the number of children under five who are overweight is fast approaching the number who are underweight.
Co-chairman Lawrence Haddad said,
“We now live in a world where being malnourished is the new normal.
“It is a world that we must all claim as totally unacceptable.”
The report said that more finances and political commitment is needed to address the problem of malnourishment.
The report said that for every $1 (70p) spent on proven nutrition programmes is followed by benefits worth $16 (£11.25).