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Diet and Nutrition Prevention of Chronic Diseases

1. To what extent does diet play a role in chronic diseases?

  • 1.1 How does diet influence the global burden of chronic disease?
  • 1.2 What are the nutrition problems in the developing world?

1.1 How does diet influence the global burden of chronic disease?

earthmap
Chronic diseases occur
across the world

Chronic diseases are long-term diseases that are not contagious and largely preventable. They include diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, osteoporosis, and dental diseases and present a growing burden for society.

In 2001, chronic diseases accounted for approximately 60% of deaths worldwide. Almost half of these deaths are attributed to cardiovascular diseases. In addition, obesity and diabetes already affect a large proportion of the population and have, worryingly, started to appear earlier in life.

Shifts towards a high-fat, energy-dense diet and a sedentary lifestyle, first occurred in industrial regions and more recently also in developing countries. Factors that can increase the risk of developing chronic diseases are an unhealthy diet, physical inactivity, tobacco use, and alcohol consumption. Genetic and economic factors, also play a role in developing these diseases.

As chronic diseases are largely preventable, a global strategy on diet, physical activity and health is needed. Changes in the diet that may be helpful in reducing the risk of chronic diseases include eating a diet that is low in fat and sugars and rich in fruits, vegetables and wholegrain foods.

This text is a summary of: WHO/FAO Diet, Nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases
Section 2.1 The global burden of chronic diseases 

1.2 What are the nutrition problems in the developing world?

Hunger and malnutrition are the most devastating problems facing the world’s poorest nations and affect nearly 30% of humanity.

Health consequences of malnutrition include disability and stunted mental and physical growth. They affect hundreds of millions of people, especially in the developing world, where approximately 60% of deaths among children under the age of five years are associated with malnutrition.

Preventable causes of nutrition-related diseases include:

  • Iodine deficiency, a cause of brain damage and mental retardation,
  • Iron deficiency, a cause of anemia,
  • Vitamin A deficiency, a cause of childhood blindness.

Slowed growth in the womb, which leads to low birth weight, affects nearly a quarter of all newborn babies. It can profoundly influence childhood growth, survival, and physical and mental capacity, as well as increase the risk of developing diet-related chronic diseases later in life.

Many developing countries now face persisting food insecurity and undernutrition as well as emerging epidemics of chronic diseases, such as obesity, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, and diabetes. This is not surprising, given the rapidity with which traditional diets and lifestyles are changing across the world.

This double burden of disease can be most effectively addressed by integrating policies and programmes designed to prevent chronic diseases such as obesity, as well as nutritional deficiencies and food-related infectious diseases. Indeed, sufficient, safe and varied food supplies prevent malnutrition while reducing the risk of chronic diseases. Such an integrated approach is recommended for both developing and developed countries.

This text is a summary of: WHO/FAO Diet, Nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases
Section 2.2 The double burden of diseases in the developing world and  Section 2.3 An integrated approach to diet-related and nutrition-related diseases 


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