I love all things data. Always have. There is something magical about numbers. Barring someone telling you I love you 20%, perhaps. Numbers create an understanding of an issue with clarity, otherwise missing. I was therefore shocked to learn that over 2 billion people worldwide are obese. Today, you are more likely to die of obesity than malnutrition. Only 850 million people are estimated to suffer from malnutrition. In 2010 approximately 1 million people died of malnutrition as compared to 3 million who died due to obesity. When measuring risk, binging on fast foods is more likely to cause death than being run over by a car.
This is a new normal. About 2.8 million people starved to death in the reign of Louis the XIV toward the end of the 17th Century. In the 1800’s Marie Antoinette said the famous words “let them eat cake instead” to the starving millions. Of course, there was no cake. When droughts and famine hit, up to 30 % of the population would be wiped out in a single year. Only recently, in the early 70’s, at the first Food Conferences dire predictions were being made about the future of China. Large swathes of their population were likely to die from hunger. Instead, over half of mankind is expected to be obese by 2030.
The accepted norm for obesity is if your BMI is greater than 25. Countries in the upper income bands have a greater propensity to be obese. A revenge of the suffering poor if you will. The suffering poor are not far behind however. As soon as income levels rise, so does the risk of obesity. People quickly jump from no food to food that leads to obesity. The cause is simple – access to low cost but poor quality food and a sedentary lifestyle. We are dealing with a new crisis today. It does not even need great leaps in medical science to solve it. Just an appreciation of what nutrition does to us and our children.