The widening gap between the cost of healthy and unhealthy foods in poor countries is driving obesity rates in both urban and rural communities globally, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) says.
Ccoupled with the unavailability of a variety of healthy foods, IFAD research says poor populations are increasingly left predisposed to the lifestyle disease.
According to one of the studies reviewed (Headey 2019), IFAD notes that is 11.66 times more expensive to obtain a calorie from eggs in poor countries than it is to obtain a calorie from starchy staples, while in those same countries it is only 2.92 times more expensive to obtain a calorie from sugary snacks than from starchy staples.
In rich countries, there is a much smaller gap. It is 2.6 times more expensive to obtain a calorie from eggs than it is to obtain a calorie from starchy staples and 1.43 times more expensive to obtain a calorie from sugary snacks than from starchy staples.
According to available data, women in Kenya are more likely than men to be overweight or obese. An estimated 34 percent of males and 43.4 percent of women were considered overweight or obese in the country.
Obesity in developing countries
“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.”
According to Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)’s Food Security Monitor for June 2023, there were mixed changes in the national average prices of food commodities reported in Kenya.
The month saw the average prices of red beans, red sorghum, and rice trade lower in June than in May. However, maize, finger millet, wheat and white sorghum prices remained high.
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.
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