Tackling malnutrition and diet-related diseases through food system change – News-Medical.Net

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In the face of growing challenges posed by unhealthy diets, all forms of malnutrition, and environmental constraints, the 2024 Global Food Policy Report (GFPR) -; released today by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) -; underscores the importance of transforming complex global food systems to ensure sustainable healthy diets for all.

Progress in reducing undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies has slowed in low- and middle-income countries, while overweight and obesity has rapidly increased worldwide. Many countries are facing a double burden of malnutrition -; meaning that undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies coexist with overweight and obesity, or diet-related noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), within individuals, households, and communities, and across the life course. At the same time, there is a pressing need for food systems to undergo transformation to reduce their considerable environmental impact.

To meet our ambitious global development goals on diets and nutrition, we need innovative research across the food system that informs and supports large-scale equitable impacts. People and the planet are at the heart of our efforts, and so our priorities for research and action center on understanding how to make sustainable healthy diets aspirational, affordable, and accessible for all.”

Ismahane Elouafi, Executive Managing Director, CGIAR

The 2024 GFPR: Food Systems for Healthy Diets and Nutrition, co-authored by 41 researchers representing IFPRI and several partner organizations, calls for urgent and concerted efforts to transform global food systems to ensure equitable access to sustainable healthy diets for everyone. Improving diets is a global imperative that will require addressing multiple issues across food systems to achieve meaningful and sustainable changes in diets and, in turn, nutrition and health outcomes.

“Evidence suggests that poor quality diets are the leading cause of disease worldwide and that one in five lives could be saved by improving diets. Thus, it is imperative that we prioritize improving diets as a critical entry point for addressing all forms of malnutrition and diet-related NCDs,” stressed Deanna Olney, Director of IFPRI’s Nutrition, Diets, and Health Unit and a lead author of the report.

The 2024 GFPR emphasizes the need for sustainable healthy diets and provides evidence-based recommendations on ways to make the foods that form these diets more desirable, affordable, accessible, and available while considering environmental impacts. This holistic approach recognizes the interplay between dietary patterns, food environments, food production, food-related policies, and broader societal and environmental factors.

“Our research estimates that more than 2 billion people, many of them in Africa and South Asia, cannot afford a healthy diet. According to FAO, more than half of children under the age of five and two-thirds of adult women are affected by micronutrient deficiencies. The 2024 GFPR serves as a clarion call for prioritizing sustainable healthy diets as a cornerstone of public health and sustainable development,” said Johan Swinnen, Director General, IFPRI and Managing Director, Systems Transformation, CGIAR.

The report draws on a comprehensive food systems framework to recommend transformative actions. “By addressing demand-side challenges, such as affordability and consumer preferences, alongside improving food environments and addressing supply-side issues to enhance the availability of nutritious foods, we can make sustainable healthy diets a reality,” said Purnima Menon, Senior Director, Food and Nutrition Policy, CGIAR and IFPRI, a lead contributor to the report.

The report underscores the imperative of collaborative efforts, innovative interventions, food system approaches, and sound policies and governance to overcome the complex challenges facing global food systems. As nations strive to meet the malnutrition targets necessary to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 2, the 2024 GFPR underscores the need for accelerated action, robust financing mechanisms, and evidence-based policymaking to accomplish lasting impact.

The 2024 GFPR is an important contribution to the global dialogue on food security, public health, and sustainable development, providing a roadmap for the transformative change required for global food systems to ensure sustainable healthy diets and nutrition for all.

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