By Alex R. Milan Staff Reporter
Countries in Latin America which have the highest sales of ultra-processed foods also have the highest obesity rates, says a new study released from the Pan American Health Organization/ World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO).
The report, entitled “Ultra-processed food and drink products in Latin America: Trends, impact on obesity, policy implications”, released this week, tracked and made a connection between the rising sale of these foods with rising amounts of adults found to be obese on the Body Mass Index (BMI).
The study was done from the period 2000 to 2013, where per capita sales of these products increased 26.7 per cent in 13 Latin American countries – namely Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.
For the purposes of the survey, ultra processed foods and drinks were defined as “ready-to-eat or drink formulations based on refined substances with a careful combination of sugar, salt and fat, plus several additives. They include sugary drinks, snacks, and ‘fast foods’”.
The report recommends that governments intervene and restrict the availability of UPPs, using statutory reforms and imposing taxes on such products, while increasing the production and availability of healthy food alternatives.
WHO statistics showed that in 2014, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these over 600 million were obese.39 percent of adults aged 18 years and over were overweight in 2014, and 13 percent were obese.
In Belize 7 percent of children under five are obese, as well as 60 percent of the men and 75 percent of the women, according to the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama (INCAP).
Consistent medical research has proven that being obese is a major factor contributing to non-communicable diseases such as cancer, hypertension, diabetes, and numerous types of heart-related illnesses.
The Ministry of Health is leading an ongoing educational campaign in tandem with numerous social partners to make Belizeans aware of the consequences of prolonged obesity, and encourage healthy life style choices.
The Ministry has also embarked on a campaign to target childhood obesity, specifically through the regional childhood obesity strategic plan signed at the Health Ministries Council of Central America and Dominican Republic (COMISCA) meeting last December.