Tag Archives: Obesity

INESAD on the Radio: Real Food Empire

Real food empireToday, Real Food Empire—a radio podcast on environmentally and socially sustainable farming and eating—featured an interview with INESAD’s Ioulia Fenton.

The program discusses the institute’s work on climate change and human wellbeing, reviews Ioulia’s own research interests in food and agriculture, and highlights what Bolivia has to offer to those seeking inspiration for sustainable living. It touches on two specific articles: one on the merits of agroecological farming versus industrial agriculture and another on the need for smart agricultural planning in the Andes in response to and preparation for changes in climate.

With viewers all around the world, the program’s maker Stephanie Georgieff—who is involved with Slow Food U.S.A—shares her enthusiasm for INESAD and its work. In the program, she particularly praises INESAD’s Development Roast as a ‘living library’ of accessible articles related to sustainability and development. And expresses her hope that U.S.-based policy makers would make use of initiatives such as INESAD’s SimPachamama climate change policy game—which will be officially launched in September 2013—that teaches the player the effects of different policies on an Amazonian town.

You can listen to the entire podcast for free here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/real-food-empire/2013/07/29/inesad-sustainability-research-in-bolivia Read More »

The Cost of Obesity

Being obese or overweight is one of the most serious public health problems of the 21st century; it is the fifth leading risk for global deaths according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Yet it is completely preventable. The problem seems to be related to wealth; the WHO also reports that levels of obesity in high- and upper middle-income countries are more than three times higher than in lower middle income countries although the problem is rising dramatically for the latter.

Obesity is medically defined as the state in which a person’s body mass index (BMI), obtained by dividing their weight by the square of their height, exceeds 30 kilograms per meter squared. The amount of body fat carried by someone with this BMI affects their health and life expectancy. The most common associated diseases are coronary heart disease, type-2 diabetes and high blood pressure, but there are also many others such as osteoarthritis and certain types of cancer. The result has a detrimental effect not just on the individual, but also on the economy as a whole. Read More »

The Economist on Obesity: A Disappointing Ideological Conclusion

This week’s The Economist featured a story on rising global epidemic of obesity that was part of the Special Report on Obesity. I was very enthused by the initial discussion that mirrored much of the analysis that the Development Roast has offered in the past. Yet a grave disappointment ensued when the piece entitled Fat Chance seemed to contradict much of the preceding argument when reaching its conclusion.

The article begins with the now very familiar recounting of the global statistics that show obesity and its accompanying diseases such as diabetes, heart conditions and food-related cancers as the biggest killers worldwide, in both advanced and developing nations. It then went on to admit that such a widespread trend, which is imposing a heavy cost on both public and private purses, as well as causing a reduction in labor productivity, presents a dilemma for a magazine. Read More »

INESAD News: Linking School Food Policy and Children’s Health in America

Over the summer of 2012, INESAD‘s Ioulia Fenton is researching food and agriculture issues at Worldwatch Institute‘s Nourishing the Planet project. In her latest article, she discusses a new study suggesting that school food policy matters when it comes to the health of school kids in America.

New Evidence Shows That School Food Policy Matters When It Comes to Kids’ Health

Childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the United States. According to the 2011 F as in Fat: How Obesity Threatens Americas’ Future report by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Trust for America’s Health, nearly one-third of all American kids ages 10 to 17 are either obese or overweight. This puts them at risk of more than 20 major diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

INESAD News: “Helping Poor Children Avoid Poor Diets”

Today, The Statesman in Austin, Texas, United States published a op-ed co-written by Danielle Nierenberg, Director at Worldwatch Institute‘s Nourishing the Planet (NtP) project and INESAD‘s Ioulia Fenton, who is spending the summer researching food and agriculture issues with NtP.

Helping Poor Children Avoid Poor Diets, The Statesman, Monday, August 13, 2012.

It’s almost time for kids to go back to school. But for many children in Austin, this means a return to terribly unhealthy school lunches fried chicken, pizza pockets, corn dogs, and desserts loaded with high-fructose corn syrup that jeopardize the health and well-being of America’s next generation. This needs to change. Read More »

Can We Use Trade to Make Us Healthier? A Case Study From Mexico

U.S. exports obesity epidemic to Mexico was the conclusion of a recent Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) report. The study looks at the health consequences of the North American Free Trade agreement (NAFTA), a tri-lateral trade liberalization agreement between Mexico, Canada, and the U.S. that came into effect in 1994. The researchers tracked the increases of U.S. exports into Mexico that followed NAFTA’s implementation. These included such items as soft drinks, snack foods, processed meats, and dairy, as well as raw inputs such as corn and soybeans that are used in the food processing industry. They then linked the rises to increased consumption of unhealthy foods and, thusly, to an incremental rise in the nation’s climbing obesity epidemic. Read More »

A Cornavore’s Dilemma: Fighting Back C(orn)olonisation

Corn, corn, corn; mountains of corn as far as the eye can see. The images of the piling up Iowa harvests were one of a number of poignant visuals brought forward by the 2007 documentary King Corn (available on Netflix). The fact is, US production of corn has been growing rapidly since the 1970s and this year American farmers will plant an unprecedented harvest – 94 million acres of corn crop. This is the largest since 1944 and will take up roughly a third of the country’s harvested cropland.

This expanse has been largely driven by a change in direction of US farm policy four decades ago. Previously, agricultural production was tightly controlled to ensure overproduction did not drive the prices that farmers could get for their harvests too low and helped ensure that available agricultural land was not overworked and the environment was not unduly harmed. Read More »

“I eat, therefore I am”: Should Mental Health Enter the Food Policy Debate?

If the old parable is true and you are what you eat, does food affect who we are and what we think? I have previously written about the visible problems associated with poor diets in the world such as obesity, diabetes and food related cancers and the possible starting points for individual and public policy solutions. However, one notable health aspect generally missing from discourse on food policy is that of mental health problems associated with diet. These can include depression, with associated human cost of suicide, and health problems due to malnutrition associated with eating disorders. For example, according to the World Health Organisation “in low-income countries, depression represents almost as large a problem as does malaria (3.2% versus 4.0% of the total disease burden)” and every year 844,000 people commit suicide globally, a staggering 60% rise in the last 45 years. It is a pricey omission too since mental health issues are highly costly to: societies overall through their national health and medical systems; to the private sector through lost days of work; and to individuals through the suffering of depression or the silent, and often unreported and untreated, psychological and physical suffering associated with eating disorders. Mental health disorders cost the UK National Health Service, for instance, an estimated £77bn ($120bnUSD) annually and 77,000 people currently out of work due to mental health problems. Read More »

Lazy, Greedy Gluttons? Is obesity really such an individual problem?

It is no secret that the world is getting fatter. Lazy, greedy gluttons! If only you would just put down the burger, eat a banana and go for a jog. Right? Is it really that simple? I mean Weight Watchers tells us it’s all about point scoring and will power and the occasional leaflet from the NHS insists it’s a matter of your 5-a-day, so what is wrong with us? Why are there now 1.5 billion adults and 43 million children overweight or obese worldwide, rising by a staggering 214% since the 1950s? Yes, some of it lies in self-control. We are not stupid, we all know a stick of celery is healthier than a stick of Twix. But since this is such a widespread phenomenon, I don’t think it all lies in the choices we make. Is it perhaps also genetic? I find it hard to believe that the rate of evolution is so rapid that in a generation or two a third of Americans and Brits and 24% of all Mexicans have now developed the obesity gene, with around another third being at least overweight. So if it is not entirely us or our DNA, then what on earth is going on? Well, the fact that the rate of childhood obesity in Mexican kids is highly correlated with their proximity to the US border should serve a clue. Read More »

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