Poor diet is one of the main risks to global health, says WHO

Poor diet is one of the main risks to global health, says WHO
Poor diet is one of the main risks to global health, says WHO
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Audio (03:41s)

Poor diet and lack of physical activity are the main risks to the health of the global population, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The entity warns that changes in people’s lifestyles have altered the pattern of food consumption. Furthermore, the increase in the production of processed foods contributes to people consuming more fat, sugar and salt. According to the WHO, a healthy diet can help avoid problems such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, stroke and even cancer.

Psychology student Jéssica Soares, 31, felt the importance of eating well firsthand. The resident of Brasília says that, due to her work and study routine, she neglected her diet and started consuming fast food on the street — the famous fast food — until she was diagnosed with gastritis in 2020, after experiencing severe stomach pain. The doctor then recommended a change in eating habits.

“After that, I cut out several types of food from my life such as coffee, fatty foods, soft drinks, fried foods, alcoholic drinks, hamburgers and many others. After these habit changes, my life improved a lot. I took the tests again and I no longer have gastritis. My quality of life improved a lot after that, both in terms of treating the gastritis that I no longer have, and in terms of psychological issues that I also had, such as anxiety”, says the student.

Nutritionist specializing in functional nutrition Ana Máximo states that a healthy diet is one in which the consumer “peels more than he unwraps” — a reference to the need to consume, for example, fruits instead of industrialized products. She recommends going to the fair more than the supermarket; and, at lunch or dinner time, compose the dish with 50% vegetables, 25% carbohydrates, such as the popular rice and beans, and 25% proteins, such as red meat and fat-free chicken.

“Do you want to have a more natural diet? Go to the market more, eat more fruits and vegetables. Avoid industrialized products as much as possible, products that have been manipulated. So, if a cookie is there, it was manipulated in the supermarket. The more manipulated, the less healthy it is. So, try to eat your meals at home. Try making your own meals at home. This will greatly improve your food quality”, suggests the expert.

Health tips

  • Avoid consuming high-calorie, processed, fatty and salty foods;
  • Increase your consumption of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans;
  • Drink a lot of water;
  • Reduce or avoid the consumption of alcoholic beverages and the use of cigarettes;
  • Take preventive exams and always consult your doctor;
  • Do regular physical exercise, daily or at least three times a week, after medical evaluation;
  • Sleep at least 8 hours in a 24 hour period.

Source: Ministry of Health

Ultra-processed

A study carried out by researchers at the University of São Paulo (USP) in 2023 shows that around 57 thousand people die prematurely each year due to consuming ultra-processed foods — such as soft drinks, snacks and ready-to-eat frozen products. The number corresponds to 10.5% of all early deaths of adults between 30 and 69 years old in Brazil, according to the research.

These products have nutritional deficiencies that leave the human body more vulnerable to chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs). One of them is cancer, responsible for 9.7 million deaths in 2022, according to WHO data released in 2024. According to the entity, also in 2022, 43% of adults were overweight.

Ana Máximo explains that all the nutrients the human body needs are in food. This means that a diet without the necessary nutrients can cause illnesses that can lead to death. So, swapping that stuffed cookie for a banana may seem like a simple gesture, but it’s an important step to avoid problems — and have a healthier life.

“Anemia can lead to leukemia, you can have serious neural problems, diabetes that we know you can develop through this diet — and it can lead to type 2 diabetes, in which you become dependent on insulin and then the risk of amputation. There is also the issue of hypertension. So, if you consume a lot of sodium, you don’t have the right balance in your diet, you could have a heart attack problem, you could have leukemia, you could have dementia”, he warns.

March 31, National Health and Nutrition Day

National Health and Nutrition Day is celebrated on March 31st. This year, the date coincides with Easter, a Christian holiday that marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Over the years, exchanging chocolate eggs became part of the celebration. Therefore, many people are unsure whether or not they can adhere to the practice and consume chocolate on that date. Nutritionist Ana Máximo responds.

“Eat your cod, eat your chocolate. This won’t make you sick, as long as you consume it in moderation. Avoid consuming chocolate all day long. But take that moment to eat with your family, to celebrate with your family. Drink plenty of water to eliminate the minerals it contains and will not be absorbed by your body, to dilute the sugar consumed. The next day, act normally, go back to your normal diet”, points out the specialist.

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Reporting: Fernando Alves

Graduated from Centro Universitário IESB, Fernando worked as a trainee reporter at Agência Senado and was a parliamentary press officer at the Chamber of Deputies. The journalist was also part of the CNN Brasil production team and is now part of the Radio Agency’s team of reporters.

Edition: Zildenor Dourado

Zildenor Dourado has a degree in Journalism and Literature/Portuguese from the University of Brasília. He is a specialist in Legislative Communication, from Unilegis, of the Federal Senate. He worked as a reporter and editor for the newspapers Tribuna da Bahia, A Tarde and Jornal de Brasília. in addition to several union press vehicles. He worked as a public servant for the Federal Legislative Chamber, where he was a reporter, editor and head of the Publicity and Press Relations Section.

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