[ASC-media] Media release: human race 'overweight'

JCA Media jca.media at starclass.com.au
Sun Aug 13 23:18:43 CEST 2006

International Association of Agricultural Economists 26th Conference
Gold Coast Convention Centre, Qld, Australia
August 12-18, 2006	   ph 07 5504 4057

August 14, 2006							IAAE11


The world now has more overweight people than hungry ones.

The transition from a starving world to an obese one has occurred with dramatic speed, Professor Barry Popkin of the University of North Carolina will tell the International Association of Agricultural Economists conference in Australia today.

"The world has seen a remarkable shift from what was known as 'the receding famine pattern' to one dominated by nutrition-related diseases," Prof. Popkin says.

"The burden of obesity is shifting from the rich to the poor not only in urban but also rural areas throughout the world.

"Obesity is the norm globally and undernutrition, while still important in a few countries and in targeted populations in many others, is no longer the dominant disease.  

"The reality is that globally far more obesity than undernutrition exists and the rates of change for the former are large and positive while those of the latter are small and negative."

China typifies the changes - a major shift away from cereal consumption in both cities and rural areas, along with a sharp rise in consumption of vegetable oils and all animal products (meat, eggs, fish), accompanied by a decline in physical work, the spread of motor transport and an upsurge in TV viewing.

The failure to address the obesity 'boom' is universal, Prof. Popkin says: "Unfortunately, there are no national examples of reductions in obesity related to major pushes on the food or activity side at the national level."

He foreshadows the possible use of food prices to control the amount of high-energy foods which people consume.

"A central issue affecting the world's public health is the need to shift the relative prices of a range of foods to encourage healthier, less energy dense and more nutrient dense foods. A second key issue is figuring out ways to affect to reduce caloric intake while not adversely affecting the poor's nutritional status.

Prof. Popkin concludes that the effect of price policies and many other regulations need much more careful exploration before they can be used  to undertake massive shifts of a healthy nature in the structure of diet. 

"Many other mechanisms available to the economic sector must be rigorously explored. This area is really one relatively ignored by the economics profession but one deserving of much more research."

The International Association of Agricultural Economists (IAAE) 26th Annual Conference on "The Contribution of Agricultural Economics to Critical Policy Issues" is at the Gold Coast Convention Centre, Qld, from August 12-18, 2006.

Prof. Popkin's paper will be presented on Monday August 14 at 1pm in an invited session entitled: Agriculture, Nutrition, and Health in High and Low-Income Countries:  Policy Issues.

More information:
IAAE media centre, Gold Coast Convention Centre, +61 (0)7 5504 4057
Professor Barry Popkin, University of North Carolina, popkin at unc.edu
Media contact: Prof. Julian Cribb, 0418 639245

Pro. Popkin's paper is available by phoning 0418 639 245.

Conference program & details:

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