Global COVID-19 Cases Are Rising Again

Data of 220 countries and territories as of July 29, 2021

Source: Worldometers

Infographic: COVID-19 Could Double Globally the Number of People on the Brink of Starvation

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Source : Visual Capitalist

Global Diets are Converging, with Benefits and Problems

Olivia Miller wrote . . . . . . . . .

New research has shown that diets are changing in complex ways worldwide. International food supply patterns are supporting healthier diets in parts of the world, but causing underweight and obesity elsewhere. They are also having important effects on environmental sustainability, with potentially worrying consequences.

Dr James Bentham, Lecturer in Statistics at Kent’s School of Mathematics, Statistics and Actuarial Science, led the research alongside Professor Majid Ezzati from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London and other UK and international colleagues. The researchers carried out the study analysing food supply data for 171 countries from the 1960’s to 2010’s.

The team discovered that South Korea, China and Taiwan have experienced the largest changes in food supply over the past five decades, with animal source foods such as meat and eggs, sugar, vegetables, seafood and oilcrops all becoming a much larger proportion of diet. In contrast, in many Western countries the supply of animal source foods and sugar has declined, particularly in high-income English-speaking countries such as the UK, US, Canada and Australia. The researchers also found that many countries around the world have seen an increase in vegetable-based diets. The sub-Saharan Africa region showed the least change, with a lack of diverse food supply, and this could be an explanation for the region’s malnutrition.

The declines in diets based on animal source foods and sugar and corresponding increases in vegetable availability indicate a possible trend towards more balanced and healthier foods in some parts of the world. However, in South Korea, China and Taiwan in particular, the increase in animal source and sugar availability has occurred at the same time as a dramatic rise in obesity, and also suggests that changes in diet may be having a substantial negative effect on the environment.

Dr Bentham said: ‘There are clear shifts in global food supply, and these trends may be responsible for strong improvements in nutrition in some parts of the world. However, obesity remains a long-term concern, and we hope that our research will open doors to analysis of the health impacts of global diet patterns. Equally, we must also consider carefully the environmental impacts of these trends.’

Professor Ezzati added: ‘Advances in science and technology, together with growing incomes, have allowed many nations to have access to a diversity of foods. We must harness these advances and set in place policies that provide healthier foods for people everywhere, especially those who can currently least afford them.’

The paper, titled, Multidimensional characterization of global food supply from 1961 to 2013 has been published in Nature Food.

Source: University of Kent

British Food Crowned the Healthiest in Major Global Survey

It turns out that British food isn’t that terrible, after all. A global survey has found that when it comes to having the healthiest packaged foods and drinks, the UK tops the charts, with the USA in 2nd place and Australia coming in at 3rd.

The George Institute for Global Health analysed more than 400,000 food and drink products from 12 countries and territories around the world. The survey highlights the high levels of sugar, saturated fat, salt and calories/kJ in many of our favourite food items.

The countries were ranked using Australia’s Health Star Rating system – which measures the levels of the nutrients such as energy, salt, sugar, saturated fat as well as protein, calcium and fibre and assigns a star rating from ½ (least healthy) to 5 (the most healthy).

It found that the UK had the highest average Health Star Rating of 2.83, followed by the US at 2.82 and Australia at 2.81. India got the lowest rating of just 2.27 followed by China at 2.43 with Chile coming third from bottom at 2.44. The results were published in Obesity Reviews.

Read the full text, ‘A comparison of the healthiness of packaged foods and beverages from 12 countries using the Health Star Rating nutrient profiling system, 2013–2018’
Lead author Dr Elizabeth Dunford said the results were concerning because packaged foods and drinks are driving a double burden of diet-related diseases in many low- and middle-income countries.

“Globally we’re all eating more and more processed foods and that’s a concern because our supermarkets shelves are full of products that are high in bad fats, sugar and salt and are potentially making us sick. Our results show that some countries are doing a much better job than others. Unfortunately it’s the poorer nations that are least able to address the adverse health consequences that have the unhealthiest foods.”

Key results

  • China’s drinks were some of the healthiest in the survey with an average Health Star Rating of 2.9 but packaged foods scored low at just 2.39.
  • South Africa on the other hand scored low with its drinks at an average 1.92 Health Star Rating whilst its foods came in at 2.87.
  • Canada topped the list for unhealthy salt levels in foods and drinks with an average of 291mg/100g of sodium, with the US coming in 2nd at 279mg/100g.
  • The UK scored best for sugar at just 3.8 grams per 100 g with Canada second best at 4.6 grams per 100 g.
  • China’s packaged foods and beverages had the most harmful levels of saturated fat. They also scored worst for average sugar levels at 8.5 grams per 100 g (more than 2x the UK’s average) – with India in 2nd place at 7.3 grams per 100 g.
  • India’s packaged foods and drinks were most energy dense (kilojoule content 1515 kJ/100 g) and South African products were least energy dense at an average of just 1044kJ/100 g.

Co-author Professor Bruce Neal, Acting Executive Director of The George Institute, Australia said with packaged foods progressively dominating the world’s food supply there was real cause for concern.

“Billions of people are now exposed to very unhealthy foods on a daily basis. The obesity crisis is just the first ripple of a tsunami of dietary ill health that is coming for us. We have to find a way that the food industry can profit from selling rational quantities of quality food, rather than deluging us with unhealthy junk. There are few greater priorities for human health.’’

The report notes that many of the world’s major food and drink manufacturers have signed up to the International Food and Beverage Alliance and made pledges to reduce levels of salt, sugar and harmful fat and that these findings could provide an impetus for companies to improve the healthiness of their product ranges.

Source: The George Institute for Global Health

Chart of the Day: America Experiences More Physical Pain Than Other Countries

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Source : The Atlantic