The Daily Dose: Food security in the Big Data era; Tackling obesity in South America

The COVID-19 pandemic has placed unbelievable stress on global food supply chains. Nowhere is this more obvious and poses more of a threat than on the African continent. One way to help address problems is through the proper collection hen analysis of data. According to an article in Nature, “Building a more resilient food system relies on many things, among them agricultural data in real and near time. Such data must capture communities’ needs. Equally important is an infrastructure that can synthesize these data to help policymakers with limited resources maximize the impact of interventions and target research.” A sense of urgency helps as well.

In June 2016, Chile implemented the first phase of its Food Labelling and Advertising Law. It mandates the use of front-of-package warning labels, marketing restrictions for unhealthy foods and beverages, and banning sales of such foods in school. “Our results show that, after initial implementation of the Chilean Law of Food Labelling and Advertising, there was a significant decrease in the amount of sugars and sodium in several groups of packaged foods and beverages. Further studies should clarify how food reformulation will impact dietary quality of the population.” The obesity crisis is a preventable one and establishing good eating habits early provides a solid foundation.

In another health/nutrition study coming out of South America, Argentinian researchers examined the effects of reducing the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages. According to the paper published in the Public Library of Science, “Our study finds that, even under conservative assumptions, a relatively small reduction in SSB consumption could lead to a substantial decrease in diabetes incidence, cardiovascular events, and mortality in Argentina.” It’s incredible how much reducing sugar-intake can improve your health.

There are many challenges facing developing countries during the current coronavirus pandemic. One of the most frustrating has to be the chronic shortage of basic healthcare needs, in particular PPEs. Per PLoS, “Undeniably, securing PPE for health workers and respiratory devices for patients is a critical part of overcoming the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we must not forget that for many hospitals, these resources have never been in abundant supply. Instead, PPE and respiratory devices are scarce commodities for many hospitals in low-income countries (gross national income per capita ≤US$1,025) under the best of circumstances, with health crises such as the 2014–2016 West African Ebola epidemic highlighting gaps in the global PPE supply.” One of the most revealing (and disturbing) findings is that 52% to 87% of hospitals report having access to soap plus running water and 38% to 56% have access to alcohol-based hand sanitizer. 52%…. running water and soap.

One of the main arguments climate change deniers pull out of their back pockets like some sort of amazing trump card is the fact that the earth has undergone a number of warming-cooling cycles. A recent study takes both into consideration by comparing the effects of the natural decline of glaciers with the human-induced phenomenon. Their findings “reveal that more North American forests and grasslands have abruptly disappeared in the past 250 years than in the previous 14,000 years, likely as a result of human activity. The authors say the new work, based on hundreds of fossilized pollen samples, supports the establishment of a new epoch in geological history known as the Anthropocene, with a start date in the past 250 years.” Not that this will change most denier’s minds because there’s much more at play in the climate change debates than science.

IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons

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