“Obesity Is A Bigger Problem than Hunger,” But Food Safety May Top Both

Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, The Lancet, 2012

Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, The Lancet, 2012

“Obesity is a bigger problem than Hunger.”

If you read this yesterday, you might think we need to tighten anti-obesity efforts. However, ranking 67 over-lapping risk factors is not simple, and it can lead to harmful assumptions. Read on.

This week, The Lancet published 7 articles on The Global Burden of Disease Study 2010, a 10-year follow-up to a study conducted 20 years ago in 1990. The study was a systematic effort between 50 countries and nearly 500 researchers.

According to the study, the years 1990-2010 saw high blood pressure replace childhood underweight as the #1 leading risk factor for poor health, followed by tobacco smoking (including second-hand smoke), alcohol use, household air pollution, diet low in fruits, high body mass index, high fasting glucose, and childhood underweight (at its new place at #8). [full ranking below]

However, unimproved water and sanitation  barely made the list in 2012, ranked at #33 and #26, respectively. Researchers have already expressed concern to the discrepancies that exist in ranking these risk factors; the study did not address the difference in low quality vs. high quality water, household connections vs. improved water sources, or travel time to the water source. The study also failed to include food safety as a category.

China is one of many countries where food safety, unsafe drinking water and nearby sanitation is slowly linking to poor eating habits. Parents may be feeding their children salty packaged foods, sweet beverages and fast food rather than risk purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables, milk, and drinking water (or even bottled).

Is obesity the issue, or is it food safety? As of 2012, no research has set to answer this question. And The Global Burden of Disease Study hasn’t either.

The full 7 articles included in The Global Burden of Disease Study 2010 are available FREE of charge here with online registration to The Lancet.



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