Releases Independent Expert
Report on Prevention of Chronic Disease
-- A diet low in energy-dense foods that are high in saturated fats
and sugars, and abundant in fruit and vegetables, together with
an active lifestyle are among the key measures to combat chronic
disease recommended in an independent Expert Report prepared for
two UN agencies.
The report, commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO)
and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), from a team of
global experts, aims to identify new recommendations for governments
on diet and exercise to tackle the ever increasing number of people
who die each year from chronic diseases. The burden of chronic
diseases which include cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes
and obesity is rapidly increasing worldwide. In 2001, chronic
diseases contributed approximately 59% of the 56.5 million total
reported deaths in the world and 46%of the global burden of 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 judgement of a group of experts with a
global perspective, said Dr Ricardo Uauy, Head of the University
of Chile's Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology, and Professor
of Public Health Nutrition at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical
Medicine, who chaired the Expert Group.
The Report includes advice on ways of changing daily nutritional
intake and increasing energy expenditure by:
energy-rich foods high in saturated fat and sugar;
the amount of salt in the diet;
the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables in the diet.
moderate-intensity physical activity for at least an hour a
The Report, based on the analysis of the best available current
evidence and the collective judgement of 30 experts, emphasizes
that energy consumed each day should match energy expenditure.
Evidence suggests that excessive consumption of energy-rich foods
can encourage weight gain, the report says and calls for a limit
in the consumption of saturated and trans fats, sugars and salt
in the diet, noting they are often found in snacks, processed
foods and drinks.
The quality of fats and oils in a diet, as well as the amount
of salt consumed, the report says, can also have an influence
on cardiovascular diseases such as strokes and heart attacks.
The Expert Report is released as WHO prepares a Global Strategy
on Diet, Physical Activity and Health following a May 2002 World
Health Assembly resolution from its Member States.
The Expert Report will be formally published in April as a WHO/FAO
technical report together with an evaluation by the Organizations
and outlines of actions to implement the recommendations. The
Report will be a critical science-based contribution to the development
of the Global Strategy, aimed at reducing the growing burden of
disease related to cardiovascular diseases, several forms of cancer,
diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and dental disease.
FAO supports WHO in developing its Global Strategy. As a follow-up
to the Report's findings, FAO will undertake work on identifying
information needs and monitoring diets, and on assessing the implications
of the Report's recommendations for all aspects of the food chain
as well as for agricultural and trade policies.
The report will form the basis for national and regional bodies
to develop specific guidelines on diet and exercise for their
The report provides goals for dietary components and physical
activity levels consistent with good health and the prevention
of the major nutrition related chronic diseases, coronary heart
disease and hypertension, cancer, diabetes, obesity, osteoporotic
fractures, and dental diseases, Uauy said.
and the rise of chronic diseases
Many of the deaths attributed to chronic diseases are due to risk
factors that could easily be prevented such as:
levels of physical activity.
More and more people in the developing world are suffering from
chronic disease, a seismic shift from a few decades ago when chronic
disease was associated with the rich, developed world. Increased
urbanization as rural people abandon their land and move towards
the cities -- plays a large part in this change, according to
City-dwellers are more likely to consume energy-dense diets high
in saturated fat and in refined carbohydrates. This sudden change
in diet, combined with a sedentary lifestyle, is having a drastic
effect on the urban poor.
Not all fats or all carbohydrates are the same; it pays to know
the difference, said Dr Uauy, adding, People should eat less high-calorie
foods, especially foods high in saturated fat and sugar, be physically
active, prefer unsaturated for saturated fat and use less salt;
enjoy fruits, vegetables and legumes and prefer foods of plant
and marine origin..
A diet rich in fruit and vegetables containing immune-system boosting
micronutrients could also help the body's natural defences against
infectious diseases, Uauy said.
The Expert Report's specific recommendations on diet include limiting
fat to between 15 and 30 percent of total daily energy intake
and saturated fats to less than 10 percent of this total.
Carbohydrates, the report suggests, should provide the bulk of
energy requirements between 55 and 75 percent of daily intake
and free sugars should remain beneath 10 percent. Protein should
make up a further 10-15 percent of calorie intake and salt should
be restricted to less than 5 grams a day. Intake of fruit and
vegetables should be plumped up to reach at least 400 grams a
The report underlines the fact that chronic diseases are not only
caused by overeating but also by eating an unbalanced diet, citing
the influence of high salt consumption on increasing blood pressure
and saturated fats contributing to high levels of cholesterol.
Physical activity is a key factor in determining the amount of
energy used each day and is therefore fundamental to energy balance
and weight control. One hour per day of moderate-intensity activity,
such as walking, on most days of the week, is needed to maintain
a healthy body weight, especially for those people who spend most
of their time sitting down, according to the Expert Report.
WHO and FAO hope the report's findings will provide member states
with solid evidence to prepare national health strategies. The
Expert Report urges national governments to aim for dietary guidelines
that are simple, realistic and food-based. Finland and Japan,
countries that have actively intervened in the diet and nutritional
behaviour of their populations, have witnessed dramatic decreases
in risk factors and plunging rates of chronic disease, the Report
Recognising that chronic diseases are preventable, addressing
the issues and creating an environment which supports health,
the Report says, is the key to reducing rates of deaths and disability
from chronic diseases. The process should establish working relationships
between communities and governments, encourage local initiatives
affecting schools and the workplace and also involve the food
industry, the report says.
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