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Food for thought

Posted 12/02/2014 by sevans

Obesity is a growing problem, as C&I’s editor points out in the leader in the current February issue of the magazine. And not just for developed countries but in the developing world too. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), over-eating is the fastest growing form of malnourishment in the world, while for the first time in history, notes a report by Worldwatch Institute, the number of overweight people rivals the number who are underweight, both estimated at 1.1bn.

It is timely then, that this week sees the announcement of a new UK funding initiative to invest in research that promises to help tackle some of the problems of food nutrition, along with issues of food safety, specific dietary requirements and food waste. The £8.5m funding competition, called Nutrition for Life, is a UK Technology Strategy Board initiative and will support 39 projects, including a low calorie chocolate bar that should taste ‘as good as the real thing’; a high fibre white bread; and work to identify food constituents to prevent or treat osteoporosis.

Technological fixes alone, however, are unlikely to solve the problem of over-eating. As the Worldwatch report points out: ‘While the US Agriculture Department spends $333m/ year to educate the public about nutrition, the US diet and weight-loss industry records annual revenues of $33bn.’ It notes that liposuction is now the leading form of cosmetic surgery in the US with 400,000 operations/year, while recent reports in the UK suggest that overweight people here are eating more in order to achieve the necessary body mass index (BMI) for gastric band surgery.  And remember Olestra? A calorie-free fat substitute that also loosens stools and lowers vitamin absorption. 

Perhaps most tellingly, Worldwatch reports that food companies spend over $30bn/year on advertising in the US, more than any other industry, often on foods of dubious nutritional value. Children, it says, are some of the biggest viewers of these commercials - watching an average 10,000 commercials/year, 90% of them for sugary cereals, candy, soda, or other junk food, according to surveys by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. 

Cath O’Driscoll - Deputy editor

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  • Anonymous said:
    25/02/2014 07:25

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