Healthy eating habits for Pinoys
Analyzing pooled data from 1,698 population-based studies totaling 19.2 million men and women aged 18 and over from 186 countries, the World Health Organization and more than 700 researchers found that the number of obese people has increased by about 500 percent, meaning from 105 million in 1975 the number increased to 641 million in 2014.
This is equivalent to the world’s population becoming on average 1.5 kilograms (3.3 lbs) heavier each decade.
At the same time, the study published in the British medical journal The Lancet also noted that while those classified as underweight have decreased by 35 percent (since 1975), the fact remains that over 9 percent of the global population are still underweight. Most of these individuals live in the world’s poorest regions like India and Bangladesh where more than a fifth of men and a quarter of women are underweight as well as Central and East Africa where about 12 percent of women and 15 percent of men are underweight.
The same thing is happening in the Philippines. According to the Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) data, overweight and obesity prevalence has been steadily increasing in the last two decades.
Among adults, the prevalence has almost doubled from 16.6 percent in 1993 to 31.1 percent in 2013. Among preschool children, the prevalence has been below 2 percent from 1989 to 1998 but has gradually increased to 4.9 percent in 2013. For children 5 to 10 years old, the prevalence remained almost the same, 5.8 percent in 2003 to 5 percent in 2013. Among the 10 to 19 years age group, the prevalence has increased from 5.8 percent in 2003 to 8.3 percent in 2013.
“There has been a shift in the dietary pattern of Filipinos in terms of quality and quantity over the years. While consumption of meats and eggs has increased, consumption of vegetables and fruits has continued to decline. The low consumption of vegetables and fruits is among the top 10 selected indicators for global mortality according to the WHO,” said FNRI senior science research specialist Divorah Aguila.
She said this development may likely be the reason why there is an increasing prevalence of cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, various forms of cancer and musculoskeletal disorders like arthritis in the country.
“We find fatty and sugary foods the most irresistible. At the same time, we encounter all kind of obstacles to balanced eating like poor variety of fruits and vegetables, the high cost of fresh food in comparison to processed snacks and limited access to nutritional information in stores and restaurants can all stand in the way of eating well,” explained Aguila.
Aguila said the FNRI is campaigning to follow “Pinggang Pinoy” that serves as visual tool to help Filipinos adopt healthy eating habits at meal times. The visual tool shows a plate roughly divided into four parts: the rice (carbohydrate-rich foods) and vegetable parts occupy more than half of the plate while the fish (protein- and mineral-rich foods) and fruits occupy the remaining spaces.
“The problem is when we eat only the meat and rice parts, they not only take the spaces that should have been for vegetables and fruits but also we miss the nutrients that these two important food groups could provide,” explained Mia Jamisola, assistant product manager of vitamins and dietary supplements provider Nutrilite.
Jamisola added that fruits and vegetables are sources of phytonutrients, the natural compounds found in plant foods.
“These plant compounds have beneficial effects working with other essential nutrients to promote good health. Many phytonutrients have antioxidant properties that help prevent damage to cells throughout the body. Moreover, a number of phytonutrients have been shown to reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases,” she said.
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