Researchers have released new findings stemming from the global nutrition transformation and the results are diverging.
A recent study from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research found if the current nutrition switch from infrequent starch-focused meals toward animal products, and processed foods continues, the rates of obesity and overweight will increase simultaneously with underweight worldwide.
Scientists have found that by 2050, 4 billion people could be overweight and 1.5 billion people could be obese while 500 million people will remain underweight.
“If the observed nutrition transition continues, we will not achieve the United Nations goal of eradicating hunger worldwide,” lead study author Benjamin Bodirsky said in a news release. “At the same time, our future will be characterized by overweight and obesity of mind-blowing magnitude.”
In the next three decades, global overweight will have increased to 45% while obesity will rise to 16%. In 2010, those rates were around 29% and 9% respectively.
According to the news release, the inadequate worldwide dispersal of food and movement toward animal protein, sugar and fat-heavy diets rather than much-less processed plant-based diets is to blame for the shift.
“The increasing waste of food and the rising consumption of animal protein mean that the environmental impact of our agricultural system will spiral out of control. Whether greenhouse gases, nitrogen pollution or deforestation: we are pushing the limits of our planet — and exceed them,” Bodirsky said.
For the study, researchers used an open-source model that projected the extent to which food demand can be attributed to various factors. They include population growth, aging, height increases, growing body mass index, decreasing physical activity and rising food waste.
“There is enough food in the world - the problem is that the poorest people on our planet have simply not the income to purchase it,” coauthor Prajal Pradhan said. “And in rich countries, people don’t feel the economic and environmental consequences of wasting food.”
Still, redistribution itself won’t be enough to turn the tide since poor eating is shown among varying income levels.
“We urgently need political measures to create an environment that promotes healthy eating habits,” coauthor Sabine Gabrysch concluded. “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.”