Editorial | Changing lifestyle

Countries struggle to meet the Sustainable Development Goals of a better in the next 10 years, large segments of population may still be stricken by poverty-related diseases, yet there is an increasing trend towards obesity the world over.

This is not only happening in rich countries. In the Philippines, the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology has tracked over a period of 25 years what they call the “urban diet.” The diet usually consists of processed food, refined sugars and syrups, meats and processed meats, cereals and other cereal products, and more interestingly, declining fruit and vegetable consumption. These are basically what we see now on our table.

Lifestyle factors play a significant role in this trend. A study conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations show that new technologies in work and leisure, along with changing diets have increased obesity levels in the urban areas of developing countries like the Philippines. In other words, we no longer move around and expend energy the way the past generations did, in the workplace or at home.

For the rural areas, however, obesity is not seen as a problem. “Urban residents have a vastly different lifestyle than rural residents. Their lifestyle creates their own patterns of food demand and time allocation. The consequences for diets, physical activity and health have been enormous,” the report of FAO showed.

How then can the food policy deal with the contradictory goal of curbing malnutrition on one hand and promoting less food demand on the other? We now have a problem of over nutrition and under nutrition and we are at a loss on what to do about it.

Promoting healthy lifestyle such as the move to stop smoking and the recent swell of exercise enthusiasts are welcome developments in this area. Still, most of those in the urban centers do not have enough time or extra finances to take care of themselves – to their detriment. They’d rather use the time to engage in other jobs to augment their income.

We need to study practical interventions to prevent the increase in all forms of lifestyle diseases. After all, this impacts greatly on productivity of our human resources already threatened by the lure of overseas jobs.

Posted in Opinion