Global eating habits have put the world on track to have more than four billion obese people by 2050, new research predicts.
And 1.5 billion of those people will be obese, according to a new report released on Wednesday.
By now, 500 million people are likely to be underweight and living on the edge of starvation
The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts (PIK) found that if current trends in what and how people are eating in different parts of the world continue, large gaps in diet will only gulf in the next 30 years will.
To predict how global diets will change in the coming decades, the first of its kind assessed trends in the types of foods people eat, how the population grows, and how food is produced and wasted.
Since 1965, global consumption has been moving towards highly processed foods, protein-rich foods, sugary products and carbohydrates.
In the meantime, many groups of the population have saved on vegetables, plant-based foods, whole foods and healthy starches.
By 2050, four billion people, or about 45% of the world’s population, will be overweight, a new report predicts
The shift means more empty calories and high fat diets that, while putting a strain on the pounds, don’t do much to actually strengthen our bodies.
Innovations in food science have made, rather than grown, many of our meals.
These processing methods are cheaper, faster, and less prone to weather and natural conditions, which makes them reliable, but not really better for our health.
As a result, by 2010, 29 percent of the world was overweight, and nine percent were considered obese with a body mass index (BMI) over 30.
The US is ahead of the bleak curve.
Between 2009 and 2010, 35.7 percent of American adults were obese. That number had increased to 42.4 percent between 2017 and 2018, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Around 28 percent of the UK population is now obese.
And the rates are only increasing in both countries and in much of the world.
The PIK report estimates that by 2050, 16 percent of the world’s population will be obese and nearly half (45 percent) will be overweight.
High rates of obesity and large numbers of overweight people fuel and exacerbate some of the world’s most debilitating chronic diseases – heart disease, diabetes, and obesity are now a major risk factor for COVID-19, which can become serious or fatal.
The demand for food will rise by 50 percent overall, with the demand for milk and meat doubling as wealthier nations divert resources from poorer ones, where growing numbers of people will be malnourished and even starved, the German researchers predict.
Since 1965, the world has been moving towards more processed diets that are high in food, sugar, and empty calories, and scarce in whole foods like fruits and vegetables. This trend, combined with increasing demand for food and waste, will only continue in the coming decades, increasing obesity in rich countries and hunger in poor countries by 2050
“There is enough food in the world – the problem is that the poorest people on our planet just don’t have the income to buy it,” said lead study author Dr. Benjamin Bodirsky.
“And in rich countries, people don’t feel the economic and environmental consequences of wasting food.”
In fact, the waste is only expected to increase until 2050.
In turn, these trends could accelerate global warming and increase food shortages.
“The increasing waste of food and the increasing consumption of animal protein are causing the environmental impact of our agricultural system to spiral out of control,” said lead study author Dr. Benjamin Bodirsky.
“Whether greenhouse gases, nitrogen pollution or deforestation: We are reaching the limits of our planet – and crossing them.”
He and his team argue that harnessing the same tracts of land and resources that are currently being used to produce non-nutritious foods to grow nutritious products instead could be a win-win that will improve human health and save the planet harmful emissions and deforestation which represent the collateral damage to current food production.
“In the same area, we could produce much more plant-based foods for humans than animal-based foods,” explains co-author Alexander Popp, head of the PIK’s land use management research group.
“To put it very simply, if more people eat more meat, there will be less plant-based food for others – and we need more land to produce food, which can lead to forests being cut down.” And greenhouse gas emissions are increasing because more animals are kept. ‘