The 2021 Global Nutrition Report has revealed that 38.9 million children are overweight and 2.2. billion adults - over 40% of all men and women - are overweight or have obesity and no country is on track to halt the rise of obesity. The report finds that diets are increasingly harming human health and the planet. Contrary to scientific guidance, fruit and vegetable intake is below the recommended 5 servings per day (60% and 40% respectively), while red and processed meat is on the rise at almost five times the maximum recommendation of one serving per week.
“The 2021 Global Nutrition Report shows that our current diets, which have not improved in the last ten years, are now posing a major threat to our health and our planet,” said Dr Renata Micha, Chair of the Global Nutrition Report’s Independent Expert Group and Associate Professor in Human Nutrition at the University in Thessaly in Greece. “There needs to be a step-change in action to improve poor diets and tackle resulting malnutrition in all its forms to achieve the high social, economic and environmental gains possible.”
While poor diets are present everywhere, there are notable inequalities in food consumption with lower-income countries having the lowest intake of health promoting foods and higher-income countries having the highest intake of food with harmful health impacts. Current diets are directly impacting the health of our planet. New estimates show that the global food demand is creating more than a third (35%) of global greenhouse gas emissions. Northern American diets have the greatest environmental impacts while African and Asian diets have the least, but neither are environmentally sustainable.
If globally adopted, the dietary patterns of Northern America would result in a level of greenhouse gas emissions that is more than six times above a value in line with limiting global warming to below two degrees Celsius.
Due to our current dietary patterns, no region is on track to meet the set of diet-related health and environmental targets each nation agreed to as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. The financial costs of addressing malnutrition are rising, but the cost of inaction is far greater. Financing to tackle poor diets and malnutrition has been consistently insufficient. At the same time, the funding needed to meet nutrition targets is growing. An additional US$10.8 billion will be needed every year from 2022-2030 to meet targets on wasting, stunting, anaemia and breastfeeding alone.
However, the report highlights research that demonstrates that the economic gains to society from investing in nutrition are significant and could reach US$5.7 trillion a year by 2030. Projections are able to tell us that aid and domestic financing will take until the end of the decade to recover to pre-pandemic levels. Far more financing must come from across traditional, innovative and private sources to get global nutrition back on track and the Report highlights that this is possible to achieve with the right action.
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