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Diet low in fats, sugars can help fight alarming chronic disease rates, UN reports

Diet low in fats, sugars can help fight alarming chronic disease rates, UN reports

With chronic illnesses accounting for nearly half of the global burden of disease in 2001, a new United Nations report reveals that a diet low in saturated fats and sugars, and abundant in fruit and vegetables, together with an active lifestyle could save many lives.

The report, commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) from a team of 30 global experts, makes new recommendations for governments on diet and exercise to tackle the growing burden of disease related to cardiovascular diseases, several forms of cancer, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and dental disease.

“This Expert 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 judgment of a group of experts with a global perspective,” said Dr. Ricardo Uauy, who chaired the Group.

The report includes advice on ways of changing daily nutritional intake and increasing energy expenditure by reducing energy-rich foods high in saturated fat and sugar, cutting the amount of salt in the diet and increasing the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables. It also recommends undertaking moderate-intensity physical activity for at least an hour a day.

In 2001, chronic diseases contributed approximately 59 per cent of the 56.5 million total reported deaths in the world. In a new trend sparked by increased urbanization, more and more people in the developing world are suffering from chronic disease. City-dwellers are more likely to consume high saturated fat and refined carbohydrates and this sudden change in diet, combined with a sedentary lifestyle, is having a drastic effect on the urban poor.

Intended as the basis for national and regional bodies to develop specific guidelines on diet and exercise for their local communities, the report says recognizing that chronic diseases are preventable, and that addressing the issues and creating an environment that supports health are key to reducing rates of deaths and disability from chronic diseases.