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ISGP Podcast: Double Trouble

The term “double burden” refers to populations that are both overweight and undernourished, a phenomenon that is increasing in frequency and often associated with poverty.

In the past 50-plus years, the main food-related issue policy makers have been hyper-focused on has been a lack of sufficient food, which is justified, since almost 800 million people in the world are classified as hungry. In fact, 1 in every 6 kids in the United States faces hunger. However, we’re not just talking energy, or calories, consumed here, but also the levels of essential micronutrients, such as vitamins, iron, iodine, and zinc. In developing countries, billions of people are affected by iron deficiency, and half of pregnant women and 40% of preschool-aged children are anemic. Immune deficiencies caused by a lack of zinc, iron, and vitamin A rank among the top 10 leading causes of death through disease in the developing world.

At the same time all these deficiencies are occurring, the number of overweight and obese people worldwide has increased significantly, now estimated to be over 2 billion people. This means that for the first time in human history, the number of overweight and obese people globally Is roughly equal to the number of undernourished people.

The increases in obesity are due to increasing availability of cheap, energy-dense foods, on top of a lack of physical activity that tends to accompany economic growth and affluence. It’s absolutely critical that while combating undernutrition, policy makers consider the potential unintended consequences of overnutrition and set in place policies to avoid its development.

These issues and some of the solutions were presented by Dr. Mindy Kurzer, a professor in the department of food science and nutrition, as well as the director of the Healthy Foods, Healthy Lives Institute at the University of Minnesota. Her paper, Improving Nutrition through Food Quality, Access, Affordability, and Waste Reduction, was discussed at the ISGP conference, Equitable, Sustainable, and Healthy Food Environments, that was convened in partnership with Simon Fraser University in 2016.

In this podcast, co-hosts outline food policies that could help address the double burden, such as calorie-labeling on menus and subsidizing healthy foods in the marketplace. For more podcasts on this topic and others, visit ISGP’s The Forum and please consider sharing this episode with others.