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Iranians Getting Fatter

The Health Ministry’s approach to obesity is focused on reducing salt and fat consumption and increasing intake of fresh fruit and vegetables
Close to 60% of adults in Iran are considered to be obese or overweight.Close to 60% of adults in Iran are considered to be obese or overweight.
World health Organization recommends salt intake of less than 5 grams per day for adults. Studies show that the average salt intake among Iranians is about three times higher than the global standard

Close to 60% of adults in Iran are considered to be obese or overweight, with prevalence reaching as high as 70% in some provinces, the director of the Health  Ministry’s Diet and Nutrition Office, Zahra Abdollahi said.

Speaking at an international congress on 'Nutrition: from Laboratory Research to Clinical Studies,' organized by Mashhad University of Medical Sciences, she blamed changes in life style and unhealthy diet as the main cause for the expanding negative trend, IRNA reported.

"High cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure are some of the health problems associated with obesity," she said, adding that the Health Ministry's approach to obesity is focused on reducing salt and fat consumption and increasing intake of fresh fruit and vegetables.

"The Health Ministry is in close cooperation with manufacturers of food products to control the amount of salt and fat they use. Moreover, the ministry has signed an agreement with the National Standards Organization to monitor the amount of salt used by bakeries in baking bread," she told the meeting.

Bread is a staple food for Iranians, and therefore has a considerable effect on their diet. According to Abdollahi, the standards dictating the amount of salt in breads was changed three years ago, lowering the maximum from 2.3% to less than 1%.

But not all bakeries stick to this standard. "Approximately 74% of bakeries currently use less than 1% salt in breads in accordance with this standard. As per the agreement between the Health Ministry and the National Standards Organization, health inspectors will ensure implementation in the remaining bakeries," Abdollahi said.  

The World health Organization recommends salt intake of less than 5 grams per day for adults, to help reduce blood pressure and risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and coronary heart attack. Studies show that the average salt intake among Iranians is about three times higher than the global standard.

Like in many developing countries, Iran too is threatened by an increase in non-communicable diseases primarily cardiovascular and lung diseases, cancer and diabetes, due largely to unhealthy diets, and physical inactivity. Responding to the growing burden of NCDs, the World Health Organization developed a global action plan titled Package of Essential Non-Communicable (PEN) Diseases in 2013 for the prevention and control of NCDs. PEN is an innovative and action-oriented set of cost-effective interventions that can be delivered to an acceptable quality of care, even in resource-poor settings.

IraPEN, Iran’s adaptation of World Health Organization's Package of Essential Non-Communicable, was launched last year by the Ministry of Health to help improve universal health coverage, including access to NCD prevention and care and mental health services.

Under the action plan, Iran seeks to lower the risk of cancer and stroke in 30-70 year olds by 90% and reduce premature deaths from NCDs by 25% by 2025, Ali-Akbar Sayyari, former deputy health minister said.  

According to the study on ‘Global Health Effects of Overweight and Obesity’ carried out by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation of  Washington University, 13% of deaths registered in 2015 in Iran were associated with  overweight and obesity.

Based on this study, overweight prevalence rate among Iranian female adults rose from 31.7% in 1980 to 32.3% in 2015, while in male adults it shot up from 23.9% to 35.3% during the same period.

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