Obesity rates in Argentina on the rise as health organization calls for improved national food and nutrition policies

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

The adult population of Argentina is eating less fresh food in place of processed products, a national health survey finds. ©GettyImages/Irina Marwan
The adult population of Argentina is eating less fresh food in place of processed products, a national health survey finds. ©GettyImages/Irina Marwan

Related tags Argentina Obesity

More than two-thirds (66.1%) of the adult population in Argentina is considered overweight, according to a recent national survey, which FIC (Fundación InterAmericana del Corazón) Argentina believes can be attributed to the lack of effective public health policies in the country.

According to the results of the most recent National Survey of Risk Factors, 33.1% of the population in Argentina is overweight and 32.4% is considered obese based on a national survey. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (64.9%) indicated a low level of physical activity compared to 55% in 2013. The survey also found that 34.6% have high blood pressure. 

FIC Argentina director of food policy, Lorena Allemandi, commented that these figures are not surprising and have been the trend for years now.

"The problem is that, knowing this trend, the state did not implement policies that seek to discourage the consumption of foods of low nutritional quality and encourage the consumption of healthier foods. The lack of public policies explains why the results of the survey are so negative,"​ Allemandi said. 

Allemandi added that Argentina should look to other Latin American countries that have implemented public policies that encourage healthier lifestyles such as improved nutrition at schools and updated food labeling, as well as national programs to promote physical activity. 

Chile's strict food regulations​ such as warning labels on unhealthy produces implemented in 2016, for example, where found to have an "overwhelmingly positive"​ impact on Chileans' eating habits based on a recent study. 

Argentina and added sugar intake

Previous studies have shown consumption of added sugar has also been on the rise in Argentina compared to other Latin American countries where estimated dietary sugar intake was either stable or decreasing . A cross-sectional, population-based survey​ assessed in the Latin American Study of Nutrition and Health (ELANS) found a high consumption of total and added sugar intake among 9,218 individuals from eight Latin American countries with Argentina registering the highest values of added sugar in both absolute and relative terms.

In the ELANS study, Argentina registered the highest added sugar intake in absolute and relative terms among the eight countries whereas Chile and Ecuador which were found to have the lowed added sugar intake in absolute and relative terms, respectively.

Low intake of fruits and vegetables

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) if the world population increased its consumption of fruits and vegetables, 1.7 million lives could be saved. In Argentina, 6% of the adult population meets the daily recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables. 

Salt intake is another area of concern in Argentina, where the average intake is more than double the WHO recommendation of 5 grams per day. The average salt intake per inhabitant is between 11 and 12 grams, of which around 70% comes from processed, mass-produced foods.

"This low consumption pattern of fruits and vegetables, in a context of increased intake of processed products with high sugar, fat and / or salt content, is associated with a higher prevalence of overweight and obesity, diabetes, hypertension, diseases cardiovascular diseases (heart attack and stroke) and some types of cancer,"​ FIC Argentina noted. 

FIC Argentina also pointed out the link to poor eating and lifestyle habits to the rise of non-communicable diseases (diabetes, heart disease) which are the cause of 73.4% deaths each year in Argentina. 

"We hope that this worrying scenario will be an impulse for there to be a will and a political decision to move forward with measures that guarantee the right to health of the population," ​Marita Pizarro, co-director of FIC Argentina, commented.

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