Rome, 19 July 2023 – Steep price gaps between healthy and unhealthy foods, coupled with the unavailability of a variety of healthy foods, are driving rising obesity rates in both urban and rural areas of developing countries, according to a literature review released by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) as part of its IFAD Research Series.
“While price gaps between healthy and unhealthy foods exist in nations across the globe, that price gap is much wider in poorer countries. Also, high-income inequality within a country is associated with a higher prevalence of obesity,” said Joyce Njoro, IFAD lead technical specialist, nutrition.
“If we want to curb rising obesity rates in developing countries, we need big solutions that address how food systems work. It is alarming to note that three billion people globally cannot afford a healthy diet,” said Njoro.
“Preventing obesity in developing countries requires a comprehensive approach that addresses cultural norms, raises awareness of associated health risks, and promotes the production, availability and affordability of healthy foods.”
The research conducted by IFAD, in collaboration with Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation (WCDI), reviewed hundreds of peer-reviewed studies and examined data from five representative countries—Indonesia, Zambia, Egypt, Nigeria, and Bolivia—to better understand the drivers of rising obesity rates in developing countries and what types of interventions work to address this global public health challenge from a food system perspective.
Obesity rates across developing countries are now approaching levels found in high-income countries. The analysis found a number of drivers of obesity in developing countries, including:
The paper also examines interventions that have been deployed in developing countries to curb obesity rates, including food packaging, labelling and advertisements, taxation and import duties on certain foods, and evaluates their respective effectiveness.
Read the full analysis: Addressing overweight and obesity in LMICs in the realm of rural development and food systems
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Press Release: PR-71-2023
IFAD is an international financial institution and a United Nations specialized agency. Based in Rome – the United Nations food and agriculture hub – IFAD invests in rural people, empowering them to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience. Since 1978, we have provided more than US$24 billion in grants and low-interest loans to fund projects in developing countries.
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