Belgium, new food pyramid

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The

Belgium

Flemish addresses in its own way the problem of obesity, overweight and diseases related to unbalanced diets and

junk food

. Without introducing traffic lights on the label
(such as England, France and Scandinavian countries), nor promote food reformulation(such as Spain). Rather, by proposing a new
food pyramid

, in the more general context of education for healthy living.

Imbalanced diets and junk food, the health trouble

Data from the
Global Health Observatory
(GHO) show a higher than average incidence, in the Belgian population, (1) of overweight (59.5 percent) and obesity (22.1 percent). In the dramatic global picture outlined by WHO, where obesity and overweight now afflict 39% of adults and 19% of children (ages 5-19), and obese people tripled from 1975 to 2016.


The average inhabitant
of Flanders — the Dutch-speaking northern part of Belgium — consumes too many foods placed in the red zone of the new food pyramid (foods excessive in sugar, salt and fat), and red meat,’ reports Loes Neven, nutrition coordinator at the Flemish Institute for Healthy Living. ‘Does not consume fruits, vegetables and whole grains (plant-based foods in general). Teenagers have the worst eating habits of all ages‘.

The new food pyramid of Flemish Belgium is thus framed within an educational project that recently turned 50 years old, and despite repeated updates-which now consider various aspects of health, from diet and fitness-has so far proved unsuccessful. Excessive consumption of food
HFSS

(


High in Fats, Sugars and Sodium


)

is indeed the real problem to be addressed, and few governments so far have had the courage to introduce effective measures.

Flanders’ new food pyramid.

The Flanders nutritional pyramid is rotated upside down from the classical one, with the base at the top and the apex at the bottom. Perhaps a more effective graphic format, as it displays in better view the foods to be taken more frequently. Drink more water, consume plenty of vegetables. Cereals in the middle, then dairy, eggs fish and white meat. Red meat in moderation at the bottom of the pyramid.



HFSS foods and beverages


– i.e., high in sugar, salt, and fat-are placed in a red zone, a circle outside the pyramid, along with alcoholic beverages
. With the caveat ‘

to be consumed as little as possible


.’

Communication is simpler than traditional models, as the colors green, yellow and red are used to express the different levels of attention to be paid to different types of food. There would also be a gray area-with salted peanuts, fruit juices, chocolate milk, white bread, and sweetened yogurt-that is not visible, however.

Don’t give up hope (without surrendering only to it)

It is all so simple that one is left to wonder how it can work. Perhaps subjecting citizens of all ages to forced viewing of the new pyramid? Displaying it in schools, medical principals, sports centers? Publicity-progress? Regime screensaver? They were at least words, one might think of hypnosis and NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) treatment of obese patients. But with images, even that is difficult.

An exercise in style, rather one would say. The health administration will then be able to tell the central government and WHO that it has updated the nutrition education program in graphics and approach. As we look at the more or less favorable impact of individual foods on the consumer’s health-so for example, sugary soft drinks in the red zone (and where else?)-rather than classifying them according to their nutritional contributions (e.g., sources of simple sugars).

But the style of public health, in Belgium as in the rest of Europe, is really in a mess. And consumers, increasingly distracted – when shopping as when walking down the street, often immersed in their

smartphones


– need both nutritionally better foods

, as well as drastic bans on junk food advertising.

.

The color codes can be useful on labels, rather than pyramids, to show at a glance the characteristics of nontraditional foods. Since often even what appears to be ‘healthy’ -see many vegan ready meals – not at all.

Dario Dongo

Notes



(1)




Global Health Observatory




, a database maintained by the World Health Organization, at




http://www.who.int/gho/ncd/risk_factors/overweight/en/


. The s

ituation in Italy



is equally dramatic, with overweight and obesity affecting 58.5 percent and 19.9 percent of adults and 36.8 percent and 12.5 percent of children and adolescents, respectively