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The hidden health dangers of our 50+ year convenience food binge has been slowly emerging over the last decade. The risk to children and adults is now well documented and, thankfully, leaders and celebrities are taking on the challenge to help reverse the trend of childhood and adult obesity in the US. What’s getting less attention is the trend toward obesity for the rest of the world.

According to the World Health Organization approximately “1.6 billion adults (age 15+) were overweight and at least 400 million adults were obese. WHO further projects that by 2015, approximately 2.3 billion adults will be overweight and more than 700 million will be obese. At least 20 million children under the age of 5 years are overweight globally in 2005. Once considered a problem only in high-income countries, overweight and obesity are now dramatically on the rise in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in urban settings.”

Low- and middle- income countries are now not only battling infectious disease and under-nutrition but now the health risks associated with obesity. It is now common to find under nutrition and obesity co-existing, labeled a “double burden,” of disease and is due to exposure to high-fat, energy-dense, micronutrient-poor foods and lack of physical activity. Documentation of obesity is spotty but the trend is clear. Following are a few of the countries that have been tracking the percentage of obese adults

Country    2000-02   most recent (data from

Australia   20.82      17.16

Canada    15.14       21.29

France     12.40       15.69

Italy          8.49          9.80

UK           22.12        22.70

US           28.53        32.54

Panoramix View: Culturally appropriate, affordable, shelf stable, nutrient rich foods are the only way to reverse this now global epidemic. Marketers that identify the solution will be the heroes and not the villains.