News / Health

WHO: Epidemics of Underweight and Overweight Growing

21-month-old Sushila, who weighs 4.5 kg and suffers from severe malnutrition, sits in her mother's lap in Kirwara village of Sheopur district in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, April 2010 (file photo)
21-month-old Sushila, who weighs 4.5 kg and suffers from severe malnutrition, sits in her mother's lap in Kirwara village of Sheopur district in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, April 2010 (file photo)
Lisa Schlein

The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for action to fight all forms of malnutrition, including under-nutrition and obesity, which affect hundreds of millions of people worldwide. More than 60 world nutrition experts are meeting at WHO headquarters this week to revise guidelines and to identify solutions to tackle this growing problem.

WHO says malnutrition globally accounts for 11 percent of all diseases and causes long-term poor health and disability. It says malnutrition causes stunted growth and wasting (being extremely thin) in nearly 300 million children.

It says nearly 4 million children die each year from nutritional risks, including underweight, and vitamin and mineral deficiency, particularly of vitamin A, iron, iodine and zinc.

While lack of food can lead to serious health problems, too much food can have the same affect. WHO’s Director of Nutrition for Health and Development, Francesco Branca, says 43 million children under age five are overweight.

"We are seeing that often we have in the same countries, at the same time, the presence of under-nutrition and overweight. We are seeing that this increase in overweight is becoming, in fact, a problem in developing countries. We have the greatest increase in overweight in Africa, particularly North Africa, and we now can say that perhaps the proportion of the number of children who are overweight is actually larger in developing countries than in developed countries," said Branca.

The World Health Organization reports about one-third of the 1.5 billion overweight people in the world are obese. It says 35 million of the 43 million overweight children are in developing countries. The largest numbers are in Asia, but it notes the fastest growth rates are in Africa.

WHO says today’s children are becoming overweight because they are more sedentary than in the past. Simply put, they are eating more than they need.

It says the highly refined, processed high-energy density food available in rich countries also is widely available in poor countries. And, these foods are high in sugar and fat content.

Professor of nutrition at Cornell University, Rebecca Stoltzfus, said the overweight and obesity epidemics are now present in every country in the world. She said the conditions of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and being overweight and obese, are related in multiple ways.

"The kinds of diets that lead children to become overweight - the high sugar, high fat diets - tend to be relatively low in essential vitamins and minerals. But, secondly, there is evidence emerging that the condition of overweight or obesity also changes one’s metabolism of key minerals, such as iron, so that obese individuals do not absorb and metabolize iron normally," said Stoltzfus.

Stoltzfus said underweight in women and children is responsible for more premature deaths and disability than any other preventable risk factor - more than unsafe sex, more than tobacco use and more than overweight.

WHO says child overweight and obesity, though, also can lead to serious health consequences, including early onset of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and certain cancers.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs