New Delhi: South Asian countries including India will face "serious" challenges in preventing increase of diet-related non-communicable diseases including cancer, stroke and diabetes, according to a new report.
The report, "Food Systems and Diets: Facing the Challenges of the 21st Century" was ton Thursday launched by the Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Anupriya Patel.
"The report highlights the risks posed by the double burden of malnutrition in South Asia, where overweight and obesity exist alongside undernutrition.
"But the long and damaging path that high-income countries have taken to slowing down rise in obesity rates is not a fixed route," said K Srinath Reddy, President of the Public Health Foundation of India.
"The level of effort required to address this problem is not dissimilar to the fervour with which the international community confronted HIV/AIDS, malaria and other pandemic diseases," said Sir John Beddington, former UK Chief Scientific Advisor and co-chair of the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition.
Although South Asian countries have made progress in the drive to address health and malnutrition issues, the report shows that food systems are yet to deliver healthy diets.
In India, for example, 80-85 per cent of the country's population consumes processed foods, leading to a shift towards energy-dense foods and away from micronutrient rich foods.
"Over the next 20 years, South Asian countries including India will face serious challenges in improving nutrition and avoiding further increase of diet-related non-communicable diseases including cancer, stroke and diabetes," the report said.
The report recommends that in South Asia, specific priorities for action need to include focusing food and agriculture policies on securing diet quality for infants and young children, improving adolescent girl and adult women's diet quality as a priority in all policy making that shapes food systems, making fruits, vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds much more available and more affordable among others.