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IPS Examines Malnutrition, Obesity In Latin America

Inter Press Service examines malnutrition and factors contributing to the rising rates of “obesity and obesity-related illness – such as type II diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, some forms of cancer and osteoporosis – in Latin America, and especially among the poorest sectors of the population.”

Though obesity and malnutrition “have traditionally been viewed as opposite extremes,” Cecilia Albala of the University of Chile’s Nutrition and Food Technology Institute said there is growing recognition among health experts that “obesity and undernourishment are … different forms of malnutrition, she explained,” according to IPS. As Albala sees it, obesity and undernourishment are the results of “‘inadequate prenatal, postnatal and early infant nutrition,’ followed by ‘exposure to diets high in fats and calories and low in micronutrients,'” IPS writes.

PAHO “has highlighted obesity as a new public health challenge in Latin America and the Caribbean, one which currently affects 53 million of the 561 million people living in the region,” the news service writes. The article explores how food pricing affects the higher consumption of food products low in nutritional value, statistics on nutritional deficiencies among children and pregnant women in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the growing gap in dietary habits between the rich and poor.

“Food products are chosen on the basis of price, and high-calorie foods are cheaper than those that are high in nutrients, [Argentine anthropologist Patricia Aguirre] explained,” according to IPS. “As a result, the traditional view of malnourished children as nothing but ‘skin and bone’ is being replaced by the new reality of children suffering from both obesity and malnutrition.”

“These are new forms of hunger. The poor do not eat what they want to eat, or what they know they should eat, but rather what they can,” Aguirre said. “And the choices available to them rarely include lean meat, dairy products, fruits and vegetables” (Valente, 4/5).

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