Pope Francis highlighted nutrition inequality on the U.N.’s World Food Day, pointing out that rich countries and poor countries suffer from obesity for different reasons.
“It is a cruel, unjust and paradoxical reality that, today, there is food for everyone and yet not everyone has access to it,” Francis said in a statement Wednesday. He noted that in low-income countries, people “eat little but increasingly poorly.”
Obesity, which is a risk factor for conditions like diabetes, heart disease and cancer, affects more than 650 million people around the globe and has nearly tripled since 1975, according to the World Health Organization.
In the United States, there’s some evidence that food insecurity is associated with obesity. That’s in part because of structural and economic barriers to high-nutrition food options, combined with comparatively cheaper and more accessible calorie-dense, low-nutrition foods.
“To escape from this spiral, we need to promote ‘economic institutions and social initiatives which can give the poor regular access to basic resources,’” Francis said. “Nutrition represents an important starting point.”
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