Dra. S.P. Adriana Hernández Santana
Nowadays, the world is affected by an epidemic of obesity, while only a few developed countries were previously identified with this serious problem, United States and some European countries (1)
Countries experiencing substantial cultural and technological changes, and known to have a normal body mass index, such as China, now suffer from this epidemic as well as diabetes, at alarming rates (1, 2). In Latin American countries, where deficiencies of micronutrients such as iron and vitamin A remain serious, childhood and adult obesity continues at an alarming growth (3). Factors that cause this serious public health and development problem are also well known: urbanization, sedentary lifestyle, high consumption of processed foods, among others (1).
A study (4) on the relationship between an increase in food energy supply and obesity concluded that in 56 countries “excess supply and consumption of available calories is probably the cause of weight gain.” Sales and consumption of ultraprocessed products have increased by 48% between 2000 and 2013 in Latin America (5).
There are no updated studies in Honduras on the consumption of ultraprocessed foods (foods processed from substances that use flavorings, additives and colorings). However, a local study(6) found that more than 40% of the sample consumed carbonated beverages and commercial breakfast cereals, approximately 30% consumed doughnuts, more than 25% consumed sweet bread and 19% were overweight and obese.
A recent study carried out by the Human Nutrition Laboratory staff at ZAMORANO University (7), found out that in more than 520 processed products collected from three Honduran outlets, sugary drinks were part of the largest number (30%) of products in the sample group, they are on the shelves because consumers highly demand them. Among the beverages with added sugar of the products examined, juices and nectars were the ones with the highest participation (65%), followed by carbonated drinks (12%).
According to a review of the nutritional labeling of these products and taking into account the critical nutrient content criteria of the Pan American Health Organization / PAHO / WHO (8), 98% of Juices and nectars, 95% of carbonated drinks, 100% of the powders to prepare beverages and those of packaged teas have excess sugars in their contents.
Out of the 154 beverage products examined for sugars content, 39% of them also use sweeteners and 13% exceed sodium content. A 64% of the beverage mixes provide the largest proportion of sugar, followed by energy drinks with a 22% and juices and nectars with an 8%. These products contribute to the excess of sugars, sweeteners and sodium in people’s diets, added to physical inactivity, these constitute a high risk for the human health (9). This risks are related to a metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, among others.
Given people’s current unhealthy diets, there is a need to promote more urgently national policies related to not only sale restrictions of energetically dense products but also to the spreading of information among the local population with regards to the products they consume. There must also be an emphasis on physical activity and the consumption of water without additives.
ZAMORANO, aware of this reality through studies in students (10), employees (11) and in neighboring communities (12), is confronted with the responsibility to find strategies that would address these challenges. The University must encourage the prevention of obesity around campus as well as socialize research results available to influence public policies that contribute to the welfare of the population in general. It must also organize and participate in the different human-health-promoting activities at the local and national level.
Be aware of what you eat and demand healthy foods! Read the nutritional labeling in the products you buy. Take care of your health and that of your family. Get excited about sharing physical activity with your loved ones!
**The ZAMORANO Human Nutrition Laboratory provides nutritional coaching, research services and internships. It uses a SECA anthropometric equipment to provide health assessments in users of all ages. Likewise, it also offers metabolic evaluations with the SECA mBCA514 equipment. The lab also carries out food consumption surveys, and provides the use of biochemical indicators, among other services. The Human Nutrition Laboratory began operating for academic purposes in 2010.
Adriana Hernández Santana,D.PH.
Department of Food Science and Technology
(504) 2287-2000 ext. 2062