WHO Agrees to Launch Anti-Obesity Campaign

The United Nations’ health agency agreed Saturday to launch a global campaign against obesity, blamed for an increase in deadly chronic diseases worldwide.

The Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health was backed by the policy committee of the World Health Organization’s annual assembly, and its formal adoption by the full body later in the day was a formality, diplomatic sources said.

The plan, under negotiation for two years, recommends people limit intakes of fats, sugar and salt - blamed for a surge in cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers.

These chronic diseases account for nearly 60 percent of the 56.5 million deaths a year around the world that are deemed preventable, according to the WHO, a United Nations agency.

According to the World Heart Federation, 1.1 billion adults and 22 million children under age five are obese, worldwide, with over-eating or poor eating habits replacing malnutrition as a health problem in many developing nations.

Brazil, the world’s largest cane producer, led sugar producers including Cuba this week in lobbying for softening references to sugar in the text, diplomats said.

But the group backed down after their concerns were incorporated into the text, including a commitment to tackling malnutrition in developing countries, they added.

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Revision date: July 4, 2011
Last revised: by Dave R. Roger, M.D.