Why Obesity Is the Biggest Risk to Our Health

A new study looks at why our modern diets are making us sick
Fast Food Burger
Photo: Jerry Huddleston via Flickr

"Wake up, world! Our diet is not killing us, but it's making us sick," Lawrence Haddad, the author of a new reports about global food nutrition and agriculture, tells NPR. What we eat and its nutritional content is now the most significant risk factor when looking at people’s health around the world—more so than smoking, drinking or having unsafe sex.

"If you look at all the diet-related risk factors for health, they outweigh the burden of all of the other risk factors combined," Haddad adds.

In both first-world and developing countries, consumption of processed and fast food, loaded with sugar and fat, is rising, while vegetable and pulse consumption has remained stable over the past 20 years. Consequently, obesity rates are rising: In 2005, 1.33 billion people were overweight or obese. By 2030, that number may be as high as 3.28 billion.

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Haddad says that not enough is being done to address the issue, in part, perhaps because governments don’t fully understand “the magnitude of the problem or lack of appreciation that you can do something about it."

On the other end of the spectrum, the report also reveals that the number of hungry people around the globe has dropped from one in five in 1990 to one in 10.


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