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DURBAN, South Africa -- Leaders of a newly formed global alliance challenged participants of the 18th International Congress of Nutrition that took place here to put their influence behind the "eat more fruits and vegetables" message to combat obesity and chronic diseases.
The challenge was posed to attendees of a 5-a-day workshop at the global event in tandem with a plea to join the newly-formed International Fruit and Vegetables Alliance (IFAVA). "All governments and major health institutions are now conscious that obesity and overweight represent a real health calamity and are the principal risk factors for the increase of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and some cancers," said IFAVA chairman Ron Lemaire.
Encouraging consumers to choose fruit and vegetables in place of more energy dense foods, said Lemaire, "will go a long way towards addressing the world's burgeoning waistline, whilst also offering potential protection against a number of non-communicable diseases."
Worldwide, one billion people can at present be classified as obese or overweight, according to Lemaire, who noted that in the developed countries, more than one adult out of two is overweight while 30 percent of the adults are considered obese. Obesity, however, is not confined to just the developed world, he said, adding that in developing countries, the problem is taking a firm hold and escalating rapidly.
With regard to the preventative role fruits and vegetables play in good health, Lemaire said it is critical to explore ways that provide everyone with the opportunity to increase their fruit and vegetable consumption.
"Members of IFAVA wish to share their experiences with those looking to initiate or strengthen fruit and vegetable promotion programs within their own countries. In so doing, we realize how important it is that everyone working to increase fruit and vegetable consumption has access to the latest scientific findings and is able to quickly access current resources and latest information to ensure the practical implementation of this science," said IFAVA Vice-Chair, Paula Dudley.
Thinking globally but acting locally, supporters of international 5-a-day type programs that promote the "eat more fruit and vegetables" message --- including participants from Canada, Mexico, United States, Denmark, France, New Zealand and South Africa -- laid the foundation for the new alliance when they met in Vancouver in July to finalize the new organization's structure and objectives, as well as its constitution and bylaws.
IFAVA objective is to gather as many countries as possible to form a strong international coalition to fight obesity with a global strategy to increase the consumption of fruit and vegetables.
"It is through partnership and collaboration that we can add momentum to the 'eat more fruit and vegetables' message, ensuring that it is firmly grounded in sound science and that the message is clearly and cost effectively communicated across the globe," summed Lemaire.