3 March 2003,
-- A diet low in energy-dense foods that
are high in saturated fats and sugars, and abundant in fruit and
vegetables, together with an active lifestyle are among the key
measures to combat chronic disease recommended in an independent
Expert Report prepared for two UN agencies.
The report, commissioned by WHO and FAO, from a team
of global experts, aims to identify new recommendations for
governments on diet and exercise to tackle the ever increasing
number of people who die each year from chronic diseases.
The burden of chronic diseases - which
include cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes and obesity -
is rapidly increasing worldwide.
chronic diseases contributed approximately 59% of the 56.5
million total reported deaths in the world and 46% of the global
burden of disease.
Report is highly significant because it contains the best
currently available scientific evidence on the relationship of
diet, nutrition and physical activity to chronic diseases, based
on the collective judgement of a group of experts with a global
perspective," said Dr Ricardo Uauy,
the University of Chile's Institute of Nutrition and Food
Technology, and Professor of Public Health Nutrition at the
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, who chaired
the Expert Group.
The Report includes
advice on ways of changing daily nutritional intake and
increasing energy expenditure by:
foods high in saturated fat and
cutting the amount
of salt in the
amount of fresh fruit and vegetables in the
moderate-intensity physical activity for at least an hour a
The Report, based
on the analysis of the best available current evidence and the
collective judgement of 30 experts, emphasizes that energy
consumed each day should match energy expenditure.
Evidence suggests that excessive consumption of
calorie-rich foods can encourage weight gain, the report says,
calling for a limit in the consumption of saturated and trans
fats, sugars and salt in the diet, noting they are often found
in snacks, processed foods and drinks.
quality of fats and oils in a diet, as well as the amount of
salt consumed, the report says, can also have an influence on
cardiovascular diseases such as strokes and heart attacks.
The Expert Report is released as WHO
prepares a Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health
following a May 2002 World Health Assembly resolution from its
The Expert Report will be
formally published in April as a WHO/FAO technical report
together with an evaluation by the Organizations and outlines of
actions to implement the recommendations.
The Report will be a critical science-based
contribution to the development of the Global Strategy, aimed at
reducing the growing burden of disease related to cardiovascular
diseases, several forms of cancer, diabetes, obesity,
osteoporosis and dental disease.
supports WHO in developing its Global Strategy. As a follow-up
to the Report's findings, FAO will undertake work on
identifying information needs and monitoring diets, and on
assessing the implications of the Report's recommendations
for all aspects of the food chain as well as for agricultural
and trade policies.
The Report will form
the basis for national and regional bodies to develop specific
guidelines on diet and exercise for their local communities.
"The report provides goals for
dietary components and physical activity levels consistent with
good health and the prevention of the major nutrition related
chronic diseases, coronary heart disease and hypertension,
cancer, diabetes, obesity, osteoporotic fractures, and dental
diseases," Uauy said.
Urbanization and the rise of chronic
Many of the deaths
attributed to chronic diseasesare due to risk factors that could
easily be prevented such
More and more people in the developing world are
suffering from chronic disease, a seismic shift from a few
decades ago when chronic disease was associated with the rich,
Increased urbanization -
as rural people abandon their land and move towards the cities
-- plays a large part in this change, according to the report.
City-dwellers are more likely to consume
energy-dense diets - high in saturated fat and in refined
carbohydrates. This sudden change in diet, combined with a
sedentary lifestyle, is having a drastic effect on the urban
"Not all fats or all
carbohydrates are the same; it pays to know the
difference," said Dr Uauy, adding, "People
should eat less high calorie foods, especially foods high in
saturated fat and sugar, be physically active, prefer
unsaturated for saturated fat and use less salt; enjoy fruits,
vegetables and legumes and prefer foods of plant and marine
A diet rich in fruit and
vegetables containing immune-system boosting micronutrients
could also help the body's natural defences against
infectious diseases, Uauy added.
Boost fruits, limit saturated fats
The Expert Report's specific
recommendations on diet include limiting fat to between 15 and
30 percent of total daily energy intake and saturated fats to
less than 10 percent of this total.
Carbohydrates, the report suggests, should provide the
bulk of energy requirements - between 55 and 75 percent of daily
intake, and free sugars should remain beneath 10 percent.
Protein should make up a further 10-15
percent of calorie intake and salt should be restricted to less
than 5 grams a day. At least 400 grams of fruit and vegetables
should be consumed daily.
underlines the fact that chronic diseases are not only caused by
overeating but also by eating an unbalanced diets, citing the
influence of high salt consumption on increasing blood pressure
and saturated fats contributing to high levels of cholesterol.
Physical activity is a key factor in
determining the amount of energy used each day and is therefore
fundamental to energy balance and weight control.
One hour per day of moderate-intensity activity, such
as walking, on most days of the week, is needed to maintain a
healthy body weight, especially for those people who spend most
of their time sitting down, according to the Expert Report.
WHO and FAO hope the Report's findings
will provide member states with solid evidence to prepare
national health strategies.
Report urges national governments to aim for dietary guidelines
that are simple, realistic and food-based.
Finland and Japan, countries that have actively
intervened in the diet and nutritional behaviour of their
populations, have witnessed dramatic decreases in risk factors
and plunging rates of chronic disease, the Report says.
Recognising that chronic diseases are
preventable, addressing the issues and creating an environment
which supports health, the Report says, are the keys to reducing
rates of deaths and disability from chronic diseases.
The process should establish working
relationships between communities and governments, encourage
local initiatives affecting schools and the workplace and also
involve the food industry, the Report says.
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