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More people obese than malnourished

7 May 2004

More people are obese than malnourished in today’s world

While there are millions of people in the world for whom food security is a daily struggle, a recent report in the Economist stated that the number of malnourished people in the world is declining. However the number of obese people continues to increase, and statistics in New Zealand are in line with the United States, the UK and Australia. Over half the population is overweight, and over 30% are obese.

Dr Robyn Toomath, Co-founder of the Fight the Obesity Epidemic (FOE), stated in a debate today at the Diabetes New Zealand Conference in Auckland, that in a relatively short timeframe the human race “would become extinct on the basis of obesity and diabetes. We’re starting to see the Darwinian theory kicking in with obesity now affecting fertility” she said. “Being overweight contributes to the prevalence not only of diabetes, but of cancer respiratory disease and other illnesses but also polycystic ovarian syndrome which is the most common cause of reduced fertility.”

“We’re also starting to see more and more Type 2 diabetes in children and invariably these individuals have abnormal cholesterol levels, hypertension and markedly increased risk of heart disease, they may well be dead before their parents,” said Dr Toomath.

In the recent Children’s Nutrition Survey, it showed that 16.4% of 5-6 year old boys were overweight and the figure increased to 23.7% by the time they are 11-14.

“Incredibly we promote the consumption of obesogenic foods to our most valuable members of society – children – through the most powerful medium available, television. Tragically we are even selling these foods and drinks to children in schools. If there is life on Mars and that lifeform outlives ours (an inevitability I would have thought) I suspect they could study the end of our species with fascination and amazement at the way we have doggedly pursued our demise.”

In Dr Toomath’s final summation in her lively presentation on ‘The Age of Sloth’, she concluded that it might be easier to embrace inactivity through hibernation 6 months a year like a polar bear, rather than promote every day exercise to people. “Is this something that could be looked at as an alternative to gastric bypass surgery?” Dr Toomath asked.


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