Nutritionist warns on consumption of processed food

Nutritionists are warning Kenyans against consuming processed foods and beverages terming them health hazards.

The diet experts want policies put in place and community action to force food processors and manufacturers reformulate fortification and take to appropriate labeling of food products.

The nutritionists noted that the processed foods and beverages lacked nutrients that helps the body to resist infectious diseases and also reduces the risk of Non Communicable Diseases [NCDs] like heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers, dental carries among others.

Obesity and diet-related NCDs are largely the result of lifestyles characterized by limited physical activity and the consumption of unhealthy diets consisting of highly processed foods that are rich in calories, sugars, fats, salt and additives, but low in essential nutrients.

The diseases are leading to catastrophic costs to individuals, to communities and to national healthcare systems in Africa. Every year, it is estimated that 11 million Africans fall into poverty due to high out-of-pocket payments for healthcare.

According to the experts, nutritional status, a critical component of a person’s health and wellbeing, must be recognized as a necessary building block towards achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

Adelheid Onyango, nutrition Adviser, WHO regional Office for Africa, said improving nutrition sustainably requires consideration of how to produce, deliver and ensure access to healthy diets and essential nutrients.

She noted it is not just greater quantities of food, which is the vision of the Rome Declaration and Framework of Action endorsed by Ministers of Agriculture and Health at the Second International Conference on Nutrition in 2014.

Tackling all forms of malnutrition for the achievement of UHC and the health-related SDGs requires remedial actions from multiple sectors and on many fronts, Onyango added.

These actions, she explained, include policies and community action to control the marketing and consumption of unhealthy foods and beverages (including breast milk substitutes).

Others include setting nutrition standards and dietary goals, nutrition labeling of processed foods, policies to promote consumption of healthy foods through taxation and subsidies and initiatives to promote consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables, among others.

The nutritionists are also calling for increased physical activity; social marketing campaigns and multi-component community-based interventions.

When micronutrient deficiencies are taken into account, Africa is in fact experiencing a triple burden of malnutrition, said Abdulaziz Adish, Deputy Regional Director and Nutrition Advisor, Nutrition International.

He added: Micronutrient deficiencies, which often pass unnoticed, are responsible for reduced bodily resilience and resistance to infections. They compromise early child development, negatively affect.

Poverty, hunger and disease are the main drivers of malnutrition in the African region and are linked to poor living conditions, lack of education, insecure livelihoods, and lack of access to basic services, including health care and healthy, safe, nutritious foods.

The burden of under nutrition still persists across the African region, and today its impacts are being felt alongside overweight, obesity and diet-related non communicable diseases in many poor households, said Abdulaziz.

In recent years, we’ve rightly focused many of our energies on addressing hunger, but what we must recognize is that ending hunger does not guarantee improved nutrition, he added.

In 2016, WHO estimated 59 million children in Africa were stunted and 14 million suffered from wasting � a strong predictor of mortality among children under five. That same year, 10 million were overweight; almost double the figure from 2000.

In a 2014 report on Africa, WHO estimated that 5 percent of males and 15 percent of females over 18 years of age were obese. The same report showed that 8 percent of adults above 25 years of age had diabetes and that it is expected to double by 2035, while hypertension affected 46 percent of adults.

Source: Kenya News Agency