A brand new study presented by a specialized NGO, with the support of UNICEF, reveals the deepening of a sickening crack in public health: the work showed that the diet of children and adolescents today is characterized by “a high contribution of ultra-processed products —sweetened drinks and processed meats—, a situation that extend in all the social levels and geographic regions. In items such as intake of fruits and vegetables, barely 20% of the amount is consumed recommended in the Dietary Guidelines (GAPA).
As explained during the presentation of the study of FIC Argentina Luciana Castronovo, coordinator of the NGO’s research area, “our intention with this work is to better understand how children in our country eat today, since the statistics we handle show that the 3.6% of children under five are “obese”. And in the next stage —boys between the ages of five and 17— that figure skyrockets and it is observed that one in five children and adolescents suffers from obesity: specifically 20.4% of the total surveyed. “This, and also being overweight, are health circumstances that later generate, in adulthood, a considerable negative impact on morbidity and contribute to premature mortality. We believe that this whole situation is due, in large part, to an inadequate pattern of food consumption, especially the high intake of products considered “ultra-processed”.
Castronovo also explained that the problem of food in Argentine children is twofold: “there is both a deficit of adequate intake, but there is also a excess intake of negative nutrients, associated with a bad consumption pattern. On the other hand, something that is easy to intuit was also bought: analyzing the figures in detail, it is seen that adolescents from the lowest socioeconomic levels have a greater probability of having malnutrition “due to excess” of intake of “bad” nutrients (foods ultra-processed, with a high contribution of sugar, sodium and fats), compared to adolescents from higher socioeconomic levels.
As shown by Victoria Tiscornia, nutritionist and researcher at FIC Argentina in the presentation she attended PROFILE“Today it is seen that ultra-processed products are the basis of the diet in the entire child and adolescent population, coming to represent more than 35% of the daily caloric intake.”
Going into the details, the organization’s nutritionists showed that “after analyzing the real energy contribution that each food group adds to the daily diet and comparing it with the official recommendations, it can be seen that daily consumption is very far from the daily recommendations on most foods. But, mainly in fruits and vegetables, where the average consumption represents only 22.21% of the recommendations. In the words of Dr. Sebastián Laspiur, consultant to the Pan American Health Organization in Argentina, “in terms of weight, boys consume, on average, 150 grams of fruit and vegetables per day. And that while the recommendation of professional institutions is to exceed 700 grams of daily consumption of this type of food.
It is not the only food group in which the diet is unhealthy. In others the same thing happens. For example, in the dairy group — milk, yogurt, and cheese — on average, 55% of the nutrition guide recommendation is consumed. They are followed by legumes, cereals, potatoes, bread and pasta, which are also around half of what is indicated. Regarding oils, seeds and nuts, 63% of what is suggested is considered. Finally, the group of meat and eggs stands out, the only one where the actual and recommended consumption coincide by 99%.
Another striking piece of data emerged when they analyzed the pattern of food consumption and its caloric intake: according to Tiscornia, “the main intake comes from sweets, soft drinks, ultra-processed foods (baked goods, sausages, etc) that rises to the 34.5%. But if this is added to the fact that in the second group are legumes and cereals that add up to: 22.6% of calories, the issue becomes more complicated because most of the cereals are refined and not whole grain. Therefore, more than 50% of the daily caloric energy of the boys comes from the consumption of processed and ultra-processed foods.
Finally, the data from the work, crossed with indicators of economic level, showed that malnutrition due to excess is associated with poverty among adolescents from 13 to 17 years of age. And they concluded that adolescents from the lowest socioeconomic level are 58% more likely to suffer from malnutrition due to excess of bad nutrients, compared to adolescents from higher socioeconomic levels. In this same sense, when reviewing the profile of the adolescents surveyed in 2018, it was discovered that the lower the educational level of the parents, the higher the prevalence of malnutrition due to excess reflected in higher obesity rates.
How do we see each other?
Another study carried out by the consultancy Voices! last month he asked about how we perceive our health. One article was how to evaluate the Argentines their physical condition and weight. In that work, seven out of 10 respondents globally rate their weight as “fairly good or very good.” Instead, 3 out of 10 rate it negatively (quite bad or very bad). As with the general evaluation of health, in this aspect women stand out for being more self-critical than men: 72% of men evaluate their weight positively, compared to 65% of women. In Argentina, according to the results of the Voices! study, 67% rate their own weight as quite good or very good (in line with the 69% obtained in a similar survey carried out in 2018). And, as it happens globally, Argentine men evaluate their weight better than women: 72% versus 63% among them. The results of the study by also show that 75% of Argentines rate their physical condition positively, versus 23% who evaluate it negatively.
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