The Global Nutrition Epidemic

From Eat to Live to Live to Eat

Let’s get serious for a second and talk food.

I could sure go for a sugary bowl of cereal right about now, or how about some potato chips and cookies? It’s not just Americans chomping down on these sugary delights anymore. Malnutrition and obesity are further becoming linked. And who is the culprit, you may ask?

sprinkles and candy made into a smiley face

With large food companies successfully entering developing nations, obesity rates are seeing dramatic increases. Children are especially being impacted as families grapple with buying cheap, unhealthy food versus more costly, healthy food. You may be tempted to think that providing food to developing nations is a good thing…and it certainly is, if the food is healthy. However, reality shows a much starker picture with many large companies taking advantage of low income families.

Dubbed a global epidemic, obesity and malnutrition is impacting us all. No longer is this a uniquely American problem with the global obesity rate skyrocketing in recent years. As of 2008, over 1.4 billion adults were overweight and 500 million of those were considered obese.

girl eating fast food

Big Food Plays a Big Role

What is your favorite brand? Did you know that it is probably owned by one of these big 10 companies? Yup, Lays and Quaker is owned by Pepsi. Chex and Yoplait is owned by General Mills. These huge companies have been seeking growth abroad; thus creating more food options in developing countries and also more refined grains and processed foods.

When purchasing food, cheap and easy has become a priority to many people. Especially lower income families who have less time to prepare food. Today we are seeing an increased reliance on processed foods which often contain high levels of sugar. The U.S. is a good example with sugar consumption dramatically increasing from the 1800’s to today. Many other nations are starting to follow a similar pattern.

stock room at a grocery store

Is There Hope?

Of course there is hope! Some countries are even rejecting these processed foods in favor of their traditional diet. However, it will take more than just individual choice to stop this epidemic. Governmental policies, regulations, and education may just be the key to a healthier future. For example, California and Mexico have both placed taxes on sugary beverages.

China is just one example of a culture that may just have the strength to reverse some of its recent junk food inclinations. In China, a change in wealth and a growing middle class has altered the national diet. Access to food has greatly improved, as has the number of fast food chains, such as KFC, McDonalds, Burger King, Papa John’s, and even Starbucks. Yet, while Americans tend to embrace their fast food roots, some Chinese companies are fighting back by provide homemade food to their employees and implementing exercise incentive programs. Additionally, the collective nature of Chinese society encourages extended family living under the same roof; with that comes grandparents who act as daycares and cooks, giving the Chinese an advantage in fighting the obesity epidemic.

fresh vegetables at a grocery store

What Can You Do?

Dedicate more time to cooking at home. Go out to eat less and purchase more fruits and vegetables. Eat in moderation. Be a part of the global solution to end obesity. Of course it will take time, but by educating yourself and others, we can all work towards a healthier future. And you don’t need a slice of cake to celebrate that!

This blog was contributed by Kaila Forster.