By Alexis R. Milan, Staff Reporter
Industrially processed and canned goods, including fast foods and sugary beverages are fueling increased obesity rates throughout the region, according to a new report by the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO).
The report indicates that importation and sales of these products have risen in Latin America and the Caribbean over the last decade, while sales in North America have seen a slight decline.
According to the report, the consumption of these processed food products is directly correlated with body weight increases, indicating that these products are majors contributors to obesity in the region.
“These products are not designed to meet people’s nutritional needs. They are engineered to have long shelf lives and to create cravings that can completely overpower people’s innate appetite-control mechanisms and their rational desire to stop eating. So they are doubly harmful: they are quasi-addictive and thus increase overweight and obesity, while replacing whole fresh foods that are the foundation of a natural, nutrient-rich human diet”, Enrique Jacoby, PAHO/WHO advisor on nutrition and physical activity said.
To decelerate the rise in consumption of ultra-processed foods and increasing rates of obesity and overweight in the region, the report recommends that governments, the scientific community, and civil society organizations support and implement policies to protect and promote healthy food choices. These include information and education campaigns, but also regulations on pricing, incentives, agriculture and trade that protect and promote family farming, traditional crops, locally-sourced fresh foods in school lunch programs, and domestic food preparation and cooking skills.
These measures are in line with PAHO/WHO’s 2014 Plan of Action for the Prevention of Obesity in Children and Adolescents, which also calls for strict limits on marketing of unhealthy food products to children.