Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
The Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition has forecast that the number of people suffering from Type 2 Diabetes in Nigeria will double from 3.1 million to 6.1 million from 2011-2030.
It gave the chilling projection which it said is the likely consequences the country will suffer from the consumption of unhealthy diets, after it presented a document: Improving Nutrition through Enhanced Food Environments at the launch of federal governmentâ€™s Agric and Nutrition Strategy from 2016-2025.
The panel, funded by UK Aid and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is an independent group of influential experts with a commitment to tackling global challenges in food and nutrition security.
It is co-chaired by former President of Ghana, John Kufuor and John Beddington, the former Chief Scientific Adviser to the UK government. The President of African Development Bank, Akinwunmi Adesina from Nigeria is a member of the 12- man panel.
It noted that Type 2 Diabetes is an increasing non- communicable and cardiovascular disease which obese or overweight people are prone to.
The document estimated that globally about two billion people are suffering from obesity.
The panel submitted that the risk is elevated by micronutrient deficiency, increase in ready to eat meals, snacks, sugar sweetened beverages, chocolates and ice-cream and a spike in ultra- processed food consumption such hot dogs, burgers, French fries among others.
Aside from diabetes, the committee said failure to deliver secure and high- quality diets has resulted in child wasting in Nigeria, creating eight percent stunted growth affecting almost one in three children in North-west and North-east, while one in two women of reproductive age are anaemic.
â€œSouth Africa is a good example of country that is seeing some of the effects which high rate of diabetes and cardiovascular disease can create. We hope Nigeria can make choices about how to shape its food environments by drawing from similar cases like Mali, US, Mexico, UK and South Korea,â€ stressed Prof Sandy Thomas, a Director Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition.
She echoed the need for transformation of the countryâ€™s food environment in a way that promotes diversity, availability and safety of nutritious foods.
Thomas appealed to government to curb food advertising and sales promotions to children as evidence has shown that food marketing to Nigerian children can influence their food and beverage preferences.
Some of the actions recommended for improved food environments in Nigeria include, paying more attention to nutritious crops like fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts.
The panel also suggested eating of salt iodisation, fortified foods to boost micronutrients, provision of high equality foods in public schools, improving the supply of nutritious foods and shaping of fiscal incentives.