Unhealthy Diets and Obesity

The Problem

Unhealthy diets (especially those which have a high content in fats, free sugars and salt) and physical inactivity are among some of the leading causes of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) including cardiovascular diseases (CVD), type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. 2.7 million deaths are attributable to diets low in fruits and vegetables.

Worldwide, low intake of fruits and vegetables is estimated to cause

  • - about 19% of gastrointestinal cancer,
  • - about 31% of coronary heart disease, and
  • - 11% of stroke.

At least 2.6 million people each year die as a result of being overweight or obese.

In 2005 approximately 1.6 billion adults (age15+) were overweight and at least 400 million adults were obese.

By 2015, approximately 2.3 billion adults will be overweight and more than 700 million will be obese.

Children are also affected. It is estimated that, in 2005, at least 20 million children under the age of 5 years were overweight. Childhood obesity is associated with a higher chance of premature death and disability in adulthood.

The Solution

Eating a healthy diet, increasing physical activity and avoiding tobacco use can prevent:

  • - 80% of premature heart disease,
  • - 80% of type 2 diabetes cases, and
  • - 40% of cancers.

Improving dietary and physical activity habits is a societal problem. It requires a population-based, multisectoral and culturally relevant approach.

Interventions to prevent and control the growing burden exist, and many are simple, cheap and cost effective. These can be implemented through settings based approaches that promote healthy diets and physical activity in schools, workplaces and communities.

Attachment: Fact sheet

Photo courtesy: Medlicker