Climate change, obesity, and malnutrition are strongly linked: Lancet report

Rescuers helping people in Kerala Reuters

  • The three greatest risks to the human health — undernutrition, obesity, and climate change — are rising because of common reasons, said a Lancet report.
  • The cost of undernutrition in Africa and Asia ranges from 4% to 11% of GDP. India is also suffering from Global Syndemic.
  • The fossil fuel and food industries, partly responsible for driving The Global Syndemic, receive more than $5 trillion in annual subsidies from governments.
The three greatest threats to the human health around the world include undernutrition, obesity, and climate change, affecting most people and every country, warned a recent study by Lancet.K

According to the report, the three ‘pandemics’ of under-nutrition, obesity and climate change, which it terms as a ‘syndemic’ are in part due to food and agriculture policies, transportation, urban design, land use system and subsidies provided to big food corporations and fossil fuel industry across many countries.

“The fossil fuel and food industries that are responsible for driving ‘The Global Syndemic’ receive more than $5 trillion in annual subsidies from governments,” the report said.

The report, "Lancet Commission on Obesity," studied 14 countries including India and recommends governments take on commercial interests and rethink global economic incentives within the food system.

The study argues that malnutrition in all its forms including undernutrition and obesity is the biggest health risk for humans, and leading cause of premature death globally. Obesity is estimated to affect two billion people globally leading to a death toll of as many as four million people in a year, warned the report. Not just this, it will also cost $2 billion annually to the global economy.

And climate change will only worsen under-nutrition and obesity because of increased food insecurity as a result of extreme weather events, droughts, and shifts in agriculture. Foetal and infant under-nutrition is already known to raise the risk of adult obesity.

India is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. The country is home to almost a third of the world's stunted children, according to a Global Nutrition Report. However, the stunting rates under five have fallen globally from 32.6%in 2000 to 22.2% in 2017. Globally, around 155 million children suffer due to stunting and 52 million are ‘wasted’. The combined cost of malnutrition in Africa and Asia ranges from 4% to 11% of GDP, said the report.

Separately, India has also seen a sharp increase in the incidence of diabetes over the past few years. Across the country, around 65 million people were diagnosed with diabetes in 2016 in contrast to 26 million people in 1990. Out of these 65 million people, 35% were also affected by obesity. The frequency of overweight adults also surged to nearly 21% in 2016.

"We are already late, sitting at the pinnacle and action is needed at the national level as well as ground level," Shifalika Goenka, Professor at Public Health Foundation of India, told IANS. "We need our own national monitoring framework with specific indicators which help monitor the targets at ground level for drivers of under nutrition, over nutrition and climate change."

Meanwhile, a recent World Bank report pointed out that 148 million people in India will reside in severe climate change hotspots by 2050.

The Lancet study calls for setting up of a Framework Convention on Food Systems (FCFS), similar to global conventions for tobacco control and climate change. It also warned that the economic burden of the “Global Syndemic is substantial and will have the greatest effect on the poorest of the 8∙5 billion people who will inhabit the earth by 2030.”

( With IANS inputs)


See also:

Indians love food so much that most of them just won’t go on a diet: Survey

India’s food regulator has kicked off the new year with a set of new food standards

98 million Indians will have diabetes by 2030: Lancet study
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