Report: Malnutrition now the “New Normal” worldwide

By Chinese Nutrition Society


The 2016 Global Nutrition Report was launched in Beijing, China, on 17 June.


Rates of obesity and overweight are rising in every region of the world and in nearly every country, according to the 2016 Global Nutrition Report (GNR), first released on 14 June 2016. The independent report reveals insufficient progress in the fight against all forms of malnutrition; for example, almost all countries are off course in terms of efforts to reduce anemia in women and to prevent further increase in diabetes.


In Beijing, the 2016 Report was launched at an event organised by the Chinese Nutrition Society (CNS), which was attended by more than 80 participants, including policymakers, nutrition experts and government officials from China and across Asia, including Hong Kong, India, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Acknowledging that all countries in Asia face the challenge of tackling multiple forms of malnutrition, the launch event raised the profile of nutrition as a central economic and human development issue globally, as well as specifically in this region.


Dr Emorn Udomkesmalee, Co-Chair of the Global Nutrition Report, presented the key findings of the 2016 GNR during the event and its implications for Asian countries. “We are now living in a world where one in three people suffer from some form of malnutrition, and where malnutrition has become the ‘new normal’ – in addition to undernutrition, stunting, wasting, and micronutrient deficiencies, rates of obesity and overweight are rising in every region of the world and in nearly every country,” she stated.


Dr Yuexin Yang, president of the Chinese Nutrition Society and co-sponsor of the event, addressed the “double burden” that faces almost half of the world – fighting the effects of both undernutrition, as well as obesity and overweight. 


According to Dr Yang, “we used to think malnutrition meant adults and children who suffer from undernutrition.  The new report finds that now countries must fight the battle on multiple fronts, and China and the other countries in Asia are no exception. The nutrition policies are critical in this battle.” Dr Yang noted that “the Chinese government has realised the mounting challenges of nutrition-related non-communicable diseases (obesity and diabetes, for example) and has started to act on it. For example, limits on daily salt and sugar intake are included in the new official Chinese Dietary Guidelines, released a month ago. ”


The 2016 Report points to the need for a cross-sectoral approach in addressing malnutrition. Agriculture, education, social protection, health and water, sanitation and hygiene represent the underlying drivers of good nutrition. “More than 30 per cent of government spending in Africa and Asia is already allocated to these five sectors. If we can make spending in those sectors work harder for good nutrition, we could have an outsized impact on the malnutrition burden in these regions,” said Dr Udomkesmalee, while moderating a panel of government officials and experts from China and India, and a representative from UNICEF.


Dr Jianqiang Lai, the Deputy-Director of the National Institute of Nutrition & Health at the Chinese Center for Disease Control & Prevention, agreed with Dr Udomkesmalee, saying that “the success of ending malnutrition centers on multi-sector collaboration.” He also highlighted the need for better evaluation of nutrition policy and interventions. He described China’s National Nutrition Surveillance study and called evaluation “critical in evaluating nutrition policy and actions, and knowing where we are on the path towards ending malnutrition.”


Matt Kovac, Executive Director of Food Industry Asia (FIA), says the data and analysis in the 2016 Global Nutrition Report, especially the data related to Asia, will support the work being carried out in the region by the Asia Roundtable on Food Innovation for Improved Nutrition (ARoFIIN).


“We can use the findings from the research to support the dissemination of science-based information on the causes of malnutrition in all its forms, and improve clarity on the barriers and enablers for food innovation that would lead to improved nutrition in the region”, said Mr Kovac.


ARoFIIN is a partnership that brings together senior practitioners from across government, academia, industry, non-governmental and civil society sectors in Asia to initiate and sustain regional, multi-stakeholder dialogue on the role of food innovation in tackling obesity and chronic diseases in the region.

Published on 17 Jun 2016