A person is considered overweight if they have a BMI greater than 25, and morbidly obese if they exceed 30. Meanwhile, also in Africa there are 5-year-old boys and girls with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of more than 30 points.
The Body Mass Index is a measure of association between the mass and the height of a person, devised by the Belgian Adolphe Quetelet. In BMI, mass is expressed in kilograms and the square of height in meters squared. The value obtained is not constant, but varies with age and sex. It also depends on other factors, such as the proportions of muscle and fat tissue. In the case of adults, it is used as one of the resources to assess their nutritional status, in accordance with the values proposed by the World Health Organization.
Emerging economies such as China and Mexico have successfully reduced hunger, but are faced with another problem: the increase in overweight people. "A common phenomenon in countries where food is increasingly dependent on high-calorie products produced by global consortia," explains Romano Herre, agricultural expert at FIAN, a human rights NGO. Herre cites the case of the Philippines: "Instant noodles, with less nutrients, are more consumed by the poor, because they are a little cheaper than national rice.
Each year, more than two and a half million people die from diseases caused by obesity, estimates the World Health Organization (WHO). The obese have a higher risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disorders or various types of cancer. The WHO believes that overweight and obesity already cause more deaths than hunger.
The human right to good nutrition
Among the new development goals of the United Nations are the fight against hunger, better nutrition and sustainable agriculture. For FIAN, which considers good nutrition a human right, the quality of food should be part of the international agenda.
About a third of Americans are extremely obese. In Europe, on the other hand, one in every 4 or 5 people is overweight, depending on the country. Also in industrialized countries, obesity caused by malnutrition is a problem of poverty and lack of education. Just as poor Latin Americans increasingly eat industrially produced food, the poor in industrialized countries consume products especially high in fat, sugar, and salt in fast foods such as hamburgers, French fries or hot dogs, or instant soups, toast, and frozen pizza. The result: malnutrition, despite obesity.
Food: a global problem
The figures speak for themselves: two billion people around the world suffer from malnutrition, almost as many as there are overweight. This means that today almost two thirds of all people eat poorly, with negative consequences not only for personal health, but also for national health systems and the economy. The German Society Against Obesity estimates that this disease will cost the German health system more than 25 billion euros, each year and until 2020. Experts speak of an "obesity epidemic" in Germany, because more than half of Germans are overweight or obese.