Food and Nutrition-Related Diseases: The Global Challenge
The relationship between nutrition and health was summarized, illustrating that the nutritional quality and quantity of foods eaten, and there-fore nutritional status, are major modifiable factors in promoting health and well-being, in preventing disease, and in treating some diseases. It is now accepted that our nutritional status influences our health and risk of both infectious and non-communicable diseases.
But it is also accepted that billions of people in both developed and developing countries suffer from one or more forms of malnutrition, contributing to the global burden of disease. Mankind has an inherent preference for palatable, sugary, salty, fatty and smooth (finely textured, refined) foods. These foods are mostly energy-dense and low in micronutrients. Food production, processing, manufacturing, marketing and promotion have responded to this preference by making high energy-dense foods available at increas-ingly affordable prices. This has led to changes in food consumption patterns which unfortunately coincided with more sedentary, less active lifestyles. The resul-tant overnutrition of especially macronutrients is the major cause of obesity and also, together with obesity, a risk factor for many of the noncommunicable disease (NCDs) such as type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, dental disease, osteoporosis, and some forms of cancer.
These changes from traditional low-energy dense, high-fiber diets to the dietary pattern described above are collectively known as the nutrition transition (NT). The NT has proceeded gradually over centuries in the developed world and accelerated during the industrial revolution with a resultant gradual and then accelerated emergence of the NCDs. However, globalization characterized by urbanization, acculturation, global trade, and information exchange has led to a very rapid NT in developing countries. The consequence is that, different from developed countries, obesity and the NCDs emerged before the problems of undernutrition and specific nutritional deficiencies have been solved. Developing countries now suffer from a double burden of nutrition-related diseases because of the coexistence of under- and overnutrition. This dual burden is further exacerbated by the HIV/AIDS and TB pan-demics in these countries.