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J Res Med Sci 2016,  21:44

World Health Organization advocates for a healthy diet for all: Global perspective

Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India

Date of Web Publication14-Jun-2016

Correspondence Address:
Prateek S Shrivastava
Department of Community Medicine, Shri Sathya Sai Medical College and Research Institute, 3rd Floor, Thiruporur - Guduvancherry Main Road, Ammapettai Village, Sembakkam Post, Kancheepuram - 603 108, Tamil Nadu
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/1735-1995.183994

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How to cite this article:
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. World Health Organization advocates for a healthy diet for all: Global perspective. J Res Med Sci 2016;21:44

How to cite this URL:
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. World Health Organization advocates for a healthy diet for all: Global perspective. J Res Med Sci [serial online] 2016 [cited 2020 Sep 24];21:44. Available from: http://www.jmsjournal.net/text.asp?2016/21/1/44/183994


Consumption of a healthy diet throughout the life not only prevents different forms of malnutrition, but also significantly minimizes the risk of onset of a complete range of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs).[1] In the modern era with a remarkable rise in the production of processed foods and alteration in the lifestyle, healthy diet has acquired the center stage especially because people are opting for energy dense foods rich in fats/free sugar/salt over fresh fruits, vegetables, and dietary fibers such as whole grains.[2]

Even though the precise component of a healthy diet is quite variable and is determined by multiple determinants (viz., age, gender, lifestyle practices, physical activity, sociocultural practices, locally available foods), the basic principles of a healthy diet are same [Table 1].[2],[3],[4],[5],[6] In fact, the practice for healthy diet start early in life with exclusive breastfeeding, and it acts as a foundation stone for the long-term health benefits such as minimizing the risk of obesity or onset of NCDs later in life.[7] Further, most of the principles regarding healthy diet for infants and children are similar to that for adults [Table 1].[1] Also, specific recommendations have been made by different agencies regarding calorie intake (fats/free sugar/salts intake) for adults [Table 1].[1],[3],[4],[5],[6]
Table 1: Healthy diet for adults and infant/young children

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As diet of an individual is dependent on multiple parameters, there is an immense need for involvement of multiple stakeholders to eventually promote a healthy food environment, so that people can consume a balanced and healthy diet.[1],[2] The policymakers have a crucial role in enabling people to adopt and maintain healthy dietary practices by establishing uniformity in the national food/agricultural policies and trade-sector initiatives.[1],[2],[7] Policymakers can provide additional incentives for producers and retailers who are involved in the production or sale of fresh fruits/vegetables; encourage measures to maintain the recommended levels of salt, fats, and free sugars in processed foods; decrease/nil incentive for those who are producing processed foods; develop liaison with schools/public institutions/workplace to ensure provision of a healthy and affordable food; and even motivate transnational, national, and local food agencies to enhance the nutritive value of the food.[1],[2]

From the consumer perspective, different interventions, such as enhancing awareness about healthy diet and its practices among people; formulating and implementing initiatives in schools to advocate adoption and maintenance of a healthy diet among school children; advocating for food labeling so that customers can make an informed choice while selecting food items; and providing counseling for healthy diet related practices in health-care establishments, should be taken to encourage consumer demand for healthy foods.[1], 2, [7],[8],[9] However, to encourage appropriate infant and young child feeding practices, apart from encouraging and supporting breastfeeding in both hospital and community settings, other steps such as promoting protection of working mothers and implementing standardized recommendations on the marketing of breast-milk substitutes can deliver beneficial results.[7]

Acknowledging the importance of healthy diet in leading a healthy life, the World Health Organization (WHO) has taken multiple steps such as the formulation of global strategy on diet and physical activity (2004); development of marketing guidelines of food and nonalcoholic beverages to children (2010); plan for maternal, infant, and young child nutrition (2012); action plan to prevent and control NCDs (2013); and measures to halt the rise of diabetes and obesity (among adults/adolescents) and childhood overweight.[1],[6],[8],[10]

To conclude, consumption of a healthy diet and adherence to healthy dietary practices can play a remarkable role in reducing the incidence of malnutrition and NCDs. However, it is not an easy thing to achieve and it requires support from all stakeholders to implement appropriate steps at global, regional, and local levels to ensure intake of healthy diet by the global population.

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Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

World Health Organization. Healthy Diet - Fact sheet No. 394; 2015. Available from: http://who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs394/en/. [Last accessed on 2015 Sep 16].  Back to cited text no. 1
World Health Organization. Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of NCDs 2013-2020. Geneva: WHO Press; 2013. p. 1-22.  Back to cited text no. 2
Hooper L, Abdelhamid A, Moore HJ, Douthwaite W, Skeaff CM, Summerbell CD. Effect of reducing total fat intake on body weight: Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials and cohort studies. BMJ 2012;345:e7666.  Back to cited text no. 3
World Health Organization. Guideline: Sugars Intake for Adults and Children. Geneva: WHO Press; 2015. p. 1-9.  Back to cited text no. 4
World Health Organization. Guideline: Sodium Intake for Adults and Children. Geneva: WHO Press; 2012. p. 1-5.  Back to cited text no. 5
World Health Organization. Comprehensive Implementation Plan on Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition. Geneva: WHO Press; 2014. p. 1-7.  Back to cited text no. 6
Shrivastava SR, Shrivastava PS, Ramasamy J. The necessity of a balanced diet to prevent the emergence of lifestyle disorders. South Afr J Clin Nutr 2013;26:156-7.  Back to cited text no. 7
Pronk NP, Remington PL; Community Preventive Services Task Force. Combined Diet and Physical Activity Promotion Programs for Prevention of Diabetes: Community Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement. Ann Intern Med 2015;163:465-8.  Back to cited text no. 8
Naeeni MM, Jafari S, Fouladgar M, Heidari K, Farajzadegan Z, Fakhri M, et al. Nutritional knowledge, practice, and dietary habits among school children and adolescents. Int J Prev Med 2014;5(Suppl 2):S171-8.  Back to cited text no. 9
World Health Organization. Set of Recommendations on the Marketing of Foods and Non-Alcoholic Beverages to Children. Geneva: WHO Press; 2010. p. 1-3.  Back to cited text no. 10


  [Table 1]

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