“Increase in food energy supply” main cause of weight gain, US and NZ research
In a report just published in the July 2015 Bulletin of WHO, researchers based in New Zealand and the United States looked at the food energy supply in 69 countries.
It was discovered that food energy supply and weight had increased in 81 per cent of studied countries between 1971 and 2010.
In Canada, by 2008 the average person was consuming 559 more calories each day then they were in 1871. In the the USA, calories rose by 768 over several decades.
The researchers found that although factors such as increased motor vehicle use over walking and office jobs contributed to the increasing world obesity-epidemic, eating more calories daily was the main factor.
Highly processed, tasty and easily accessible food was put down as why calorie consumption has increased. Lead researcher, Dr Vandevijvere from the University of Auckland says that individuals are often unknowingly contributing to their own weight gain.
“Overeating to gain weight is not usually a conscious individual decision and many things in the food environment influence our diet, said Dr Vandevijvere.
“One of these is likely to be the sheer quantity of palatable food that is available in the food supply,” she says. “It creates a kind of ‘push effect’ on our diet and we tend to subconsciously overeat on the calories and gain weight.”
Dr Vandevijvere says it only takes a little bit of too much food for the weight to start stacking on.
“A 100 kJ of energy is about a half a plain biscuit or a mouthful of soft drink, yet if that energy intake is sustained it will result in an extra kg in weight, said Dr Vandevijvere.
“Some of the countries in the study had much larger increases in food energy supply than could be explained by the average increase in weight of the population. This suggests that an increasing amount of food is wasted and there is some evidence to support that this is the case.”
Only five countries experienced a decrease in calorie consumption and weight loss over the past few decades. These countries included Barbados, Burkina Faso, Kazakhstan, Nigeria and Switzerland.
WHO has suggested that a number of strategies need to be used together to help battle weight gain through food consumption. Suggested techniques include looking at restricting ‘junk food’ advertising aimed at children, improving food labelling and packaging standards, exploring the effects of food prices and making sure healthier food is available worldwide.