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HomeTopicsHealthCosta Rica Faces Alarming Obesity Epidemic as WHO Projects Grim Future

Costa Rica Faces Alarming Obesity Epidemic as WHO Projects Grim Future

As revealed by projections from the World Health Organization (WHO), Costa Rica could rank third among nations with the highest rates of overweight and obesity in 37 years. The high levels of these conditions have been considered by authorities as an epidemic and a public health problem.

Faced with this worrying scenario, nutritionists have highlighted the crucial importance of implementing front-of-package labeling on foods. According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), front labeling is a simple, practical, and effective tool to inform the public about products that can harm health and help guide purchasing decisions.

Health experts also believe this measure would allow consumers to easily identify when a product contains high levels of sodium, fat, or sugar, providing essential information to make healthier food choices.

“Access to safe food is a human right and a social determinant of health. Areas lacking food security are known as food deserts; in a parallel line, those places with a saturation of unhealthy food, with high caloric density and low nutritional value, are known as food swamps,” said Emmanuel Bonilla, Surgeon at the Metropolitan Hospital.

However, the Ministry of Health issued a circular last year ordering the front labeling on some imported foods to be hidden. The Constitutional Chamber issued a pronouncement in which it indicated that such measure should be annulled. With this decision, the front warning labeling will not have to be hidden on the products.

Limited access to affordable nutritious food constitutes food insecurity and is associated with an increased risk of multiple chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, mental health disorders, among other chronic diseases.

While it’s not an infallible method in the decision-making process when buying food, having a simple and easy-to-identify icon indicating that a product is high in fat or sugar allows the person to have more clarity about what they’re about to purchase or consume.

“The front or warning label indicates to the consumer with updated, truthful, and scientific information, which of the nutrients in a food are in excessive or high amounts, giving them a warning voice so that they have tools to choose and take care of their health,” said Maria Bolaños, president of the Association of Nutrition Professionals.

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