UNHEALTHY DIETS

Climate change has altered eating habits, say nutritionists

The scientists say this leads to the rise of diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure

In Summary
  • They cite globalisation and urbanisation as the reasons why people are not eating organic foods.
  • They believe the government has not addressed the problem adequately. 

Home cooked meals are slowly being replaced by fast food outlets, street food vendors and takeaway meals, nutritionists have warned. 

This replacement means that people are longer eating organic food hence exposing themselves to lifestyle diseases. 

“Climate patterns have changed and this has greatly affected farmers and consumers as they have to eat what is available,” Belinda Nyakiti said.

Dr Nyakiti is a dietetics specialist at Boom's Nutrition and Wellness  in Nairobi.

With food production contributing to almost 33 per cent of greenhouse gases, the quest to end world hunger has seen the rise of production of resource-intensive foods.

The shift from plant-based and rich-fibre foods has occurred in recent decades as a result of globalisation, urbanisation and growth in income. This is according to a report released on July 2021 by Food and Agriculture Organization.

Dr Nyakiti also cited the use of fertilisers, herbicides, genetically modified organisms and pesticides in circumstances where the farmer is out to make quick profits and increase yields.

FAO has linked escalating cases of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure to the increased consumption of ultra or highly processed foods, mostly in the urban centres.

A 2020 report by Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service said there is presence of heavy metals like zinc, lead and chromium on most of the vegetables sold in Nairobi.

“The consumers then suffer from cases of diabetes, high blood pressure and other diseases that are fatal,” Nyakiti said. 

“Kenya is currently facing drought and I think the best way to deal with the problem is for the government to look for sustainable and alternative ways to deal with it,” she said.

Dr Elizabeth Kimani Murage, a senior research scientist at the African Population and Health Research Centre, suggested the need to adopt organic lifestyle and people to eat sustainably.

“It is high time we started implementing environment-friendly farming techniques and agricultural practices which will improve soil and water  and help restore biodiversity.”

DR Elizabeth Murage during an interview with the Star on October 14.
DR Elizabeth Murage during an interview with the Star on October 14.
Image: MARGARET WANJIRU

Murage argued that the actual change in agriculture reforms can only occur when consumers and food companies are dedicated to sustainable food production.

Murage said that various reforms have always failed to address the problem adequately. 

“Millions of people suffer hunger when a lot of food goes to waste and this is a sign of a broken system that needs to be fixed urgently,” she said.

“As part of APHRC’s vision, we want to promote sustainability when it comes to food production. This policy aims to help the urban poor through a food rescue system."

United Nations Environmental Programme estimates around 14 per cent of the world’s food going to waste due to a combination of improper harvesting, storage and transit .

Another 17 percent is wasted at the consumer’s end.

“If we have a system that can distribute the excess food lost in exportation process then we can say we are on the right track for championing zero hunger,” said Murage. 

She called for the implementation of sustainability practices in areas like factories and workplaces to demonstrate serious commitment to food issues. 

Dr Elizabeth Murage during the interview on her farm on October 14.
Dr Elizabeth Murage during the interview on her farm on October 14.
Image: MARGARET WANJIRU