More and more countries in the world are faced with non-communicable diseases such as obesity - which is a contributing factor to, among other things, heart problems, diabetes and osteoarthritis. Pictured: A night market in Vietnam. Photo: Image by Sang Hyun Cho. Source: Pixabay.


More and more people are suffering from obesity - in both high- and low-income countries

More and more people in developing countries are suffering from obesity, which is fatal. The causes of the problem are poverty, unequal societies and dietary changes with increasing amounts of sugar, salt and fat. This leads to the so-called "double burden", where countries are allowed to work on two fronts - both against communicable and non-communicable diseases.  

70 percent of the total number of deaths in Malaysia in 2021 were linked to non-communicable diseases such as obesity and cancer, shows research. Half the population of the country suffers from obesity - which is the highest proportion in all of Asia, shows another research report. Obesity means more specifically that the body's Body Mass Index (BMI) is above 30, while being overweight means that the level is above 25. Both obesity and overweight have a negative impact on health by being contributing factors to, among other things, heart problems, diabetes and osteoarthritis.

And Malaysia is not alone in facing the problem of obesity. Every second adult in OECD countries suffer from obesity or are overweight. Industrialized countries like the UK are getting more alarming estimates of their levels of obesity. For example, estimated Great Britain to the year 2025 have the highest level of obesity in Europe.

Malaysia is a top middle income country, but also developing countries in Asia, for example Filippi Erna, and in sub-Saharan region in Africa, for example, Uganda and Tanzania, see increased levels of obesity. A contributing factor to both low- and high-income countries struggling with the problem is that eating habits have become more and more similar in the world and that they have become less healthy. Eating habits have at an increased rate led to malnutrition that contributes to obesity, according to with the BBC. Malnutrition is about people eating meals but that the food has more salt, fat or sugar than the people get rid of in terms of energy.

"All forms of malnutrition have one thing in common: food systems that fail to provide the population with healthy, safe, inexpensive and sustainable diets," said Dr. Francesco Branca, Director of Health and Development at the World Health Organization (WHO). in the interview with the BBC.

According to United Nations Food Program (WFP) Malnutrition occurs in developing countries for several reasons, but they mention poverty, unequal societies and the change to a diet high in sugar and fat. This leads to what is called the "double burden" for countries that are allowed to work on two fronts - both against infectious diseases and against malnutrition.

Fat tax and knowledge dissemination

But how do countries solve the problem of malnutrition and obesity? Some industrialized countries have tried to overcome the problem by adding a fat tax on certain products. But fat taxes in developing countries could lead to people in poverty getting increased costs on food products and there is a risk that they are sinking even more into poverty.

WFP is working with the problem through the dissemination of knowledge about healthy diets and to actively change factors such as dirty water in regions that lack clean water. They also express that the problem of malnutrition needs to be addressed locally, nationally and internationally due to the complexity of the problem. During the WHO meeting in May, WHA75, discussed the non-communicable diseases. The theme of the whole meeting was “Health for Peace, Peace for Health", Which symbolizes the crucial importance good health can make for a population.  

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