To say NO to FAT

According to &to=' target=_blank>The Australian the US earned the wrath of health experts and foreign governments yesterday for opposing a World Health Organisation plan to fight global obesity by targeting junk food and soft drinks.

Bush administration officials told WHO's executive board in Geneva that diet was a matter for individual responsibility. There was no firm scientific evidence that sugar and high-calorie processed food was the main cause of obesity, they said.

The objections of the US, where two-thirds of the population is overweight and 30 per cent of adults are obese, forced WHO to delay the release of the report to consider changes. Health experts, including Kaare Norum, a Norwegian who heads the WHO advisory panel on obesity, accused Washington of acting in the interests of the food and sugar industries, significant donors to the Republican party. The US opposition, spelled out in a letter to WHO by US Health Department official William Steiger, took the UN agency by surprise.

"The assertion that heavy marketing of energy-dense foods or fast food outlets increases the risk of obesity is supported by almost no data," Mr Steiger said.

Countering a proposal to restrict advertising, he added: "No data have yet clearly demonstrated that the advertising on children's television causes obesity."

The draft WHO plan, Global Strategy on Diet, Physical, Activity and Health, calls on governments to promote exercise and discourage the consumption of fat, sugary food through education, pricing and restrictions on advertising.

But Mt Steiger said: "Government-imposed solutions are not always appropriate. People need to be empowered to take responsibility for their health."

According to WHO, 1 billion adults worldwide are overweight and at least 300 million are obese.

Poor diet and lack of exercise contribute to heart disease, diabetes and cancers which account for 60 per cent of the 56.5 million preventable deaths each year.

&to=' target=_blank> informs to Governments gave cautious backing Tuesday to a United Nations plan to promote healthier lifestyles, part of a global effort to reduce obesity and help battle heart disease and diabetes.

Countries, including the United States - seen by campaigners as a holdout - said they approved broadly of the World Health Organization's draft Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health.

"We need a strategy to take us out of the comfort zone, because more of the same is clearly not an option," New Zealand delegate Gillian Durham told Tuesday's three-hour meeting.

The 18-page document, presented at a meeting of the 32-country WHO executive board, aims to guide international efforts to fight illnesses related to bad diet and lack of exercise.

The Bush administration has faced criticism for allegedly kowtowing to the food industry and trying to dilute the document, which includes pushing industry to make deeper cuts in sugar and fat in food and changes to advertising and tax policy to promote healthier diets.

Some 300 million people worldwide are obese and 750 million more are overweight, including 22 million children under age five, according to the International Obesity Task Force. Once largely a problem of industrialized countries, obesity now is hitting developing countries too.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has been trying to help Americans fight fat for years by cracking down on deceptive diet ads. The United Kingdom has floated a plan to restrict the advertising of fatty foods. What some call an epidemic of obesity in the U.S. has drawn the attention of Coca-Cola, McDonalds, Kraft Foods and others, and has given rise to an industry devoted to the Atkins diet. None of it has worked.

Now the World Health Organization wants to weigh in on the issue, but the Bush Administration is reportedly sitting on the United Nations agency's report which calls on individuals to modify their diets, but also wants governments to use taxes and subsidies to urge them to do so, and suggests restrictions on advertising of certain foods.

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