Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are defined as chronic diseases of long duration with a generally slow progression, which arise from both modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors which may be genetic, physiological, environmental, or behavioural, including diets, harmful use of alcohol and hard drugs, physical activity, emotional disturbance. They manifest as cardiovascular diseases (high blood pressure, heart attacks, arthritis, and stroke), cancers, chronic respiratory diseases (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma) and diabetes, amongst others. Several risk factors have been associated with this increased burden, including genetic, environmental, and behavioural and the rise in urbanization and globalization has undoubtedly had a significant influence on consumer food and drink preferences and choices, even in low-income countries. The increased addition of fats and oils, sugars and salt in many processed foods by manufacturers, chefs, and even consumers play a major role in contributing to these NCDs as the three have been implicated as the leading dietary causes of these diseases.
The increasing prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Nigeria, like many other developing countries, has no doubt become worrisome. The pre-existing health burden due to malnutrition, the challenges of low productivity, poverty, and reduced economic growth and development are exacerbated. It is not surprising that this has proven to be a significant threat to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Nigeria.
However, many of the risk factors are preventable with changes in diet, lifestyle, alcohol, and drug use, among other measures. To prevent the growing occurrence of NCDs in Nigeria, critical and relevant stakeholders must work together with a definite agenda and concerted efforts to combat this challenge.
The risks arising from dietary sugars can be controlled by raising awareness of the health benefits of fruits, and vegetables consumption, and discouraging consumption through tax levies.
Manufacturing industries must be aware of dietary needs and be required to produce only sustainable products anchored on the principles of affordability, accessibility, and availability of nutrition to all, in compliance with all laid down policies and regulations such as that of NAFDAC, SON, National Policy on Food Safety and Quality, amongst others.
Agencies that promote and are responsible for ensuring the safety of foods and improved nutrition such as the Federal Ministry of Health, FCCPC, NAFDAC, CAFSANI, NHF, and others must take up the responsibility of providing adequate awareness and information to the consumer on health food choices, sourcing, selection, and needs. This can be promoted through nutritional label declaration and claims. These labels will help to convey nutritional information and dietary guidelines that will in turn help the consumer to make informed choices. One such effort is the emergence of the front-of-pack label (FoPL). While at least the FoPL label initiative has been adopted by at least thirty countries whether as voluntary or mandatory, it is yet to be formally adopted in Nigeria.
This has become one of the most important strategies for addressing diet related NCDs and should be nationally promoted and adopted without further delay.
Finally, it is important that consumers provide feedback and complaints on products and services via the platforms provided by government agencies or civil societies such as CAFSANI, to help ensure that offenders are appropriately sanctioned……. To read the full paper use the link below: