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J Epidemiol Community Health 59:615-617 doi:10.1136/jech.2004.028985
  • Nutrition
  • Editorial

Nutritional transition: a determinant of global health

  1. Stephen J Genuis
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr S Genuis
 2935-66 Street, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6K 4C1; sgenuisualberta.ca

    Much of the world’s disease burden results from faulty nutrition, which is a largely preventable risk factor. It is now time for a global diet strategy.

    Perhaps more than ever before in recorded history there is a huge gap between health as it could be and health as it really is. The management of patients with persistent affliction and unremitting pain increasingly dominates medical practice1,2 and it is apparent that individual and public dietary habits are an important determinant in the mounting load of chronic suffering and illness.3 Exorbitant rates of adult onset diabetes as well as an epidemic of paediatric and adult obesity have triggered a careful re-examination of national food guidelines and population dietary practices. In recognition of the health ramifications of faulty dietary intake, the World Health Organisation in May 2004 implemented a global diet strategy,3–5 a move branded as a “landmark achievement in global public health policy.”5

    Distinct challenges related to nutrition and health in developing countries, such as food shortage and inequitable distribution of resources, often result from political, economic, and social factors. Even within developed nations enjoying prosperity, cutting edge medical technology, and accessible health care, however, it is increasingly evident that rates of chronic illness are mounting,6–9 thus threatening the sustainability of health care systems in many jurisdictions. The Centers for Disease Control and other groups have provided substantial research data confirming that the rise in illness and chronic pain are, in part, attributable to nutritional choices.3,10–12 As early as 1988, the US Surgeon General’s Report on Nutrition and Health concluded that illness related to modern dietary habits had risen so noticeably that faulty nutrition …