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The Bellagio Report on Healthy Agriculture, Healthy Nutrition, Healthy People is the result of the meeting held at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center in Lake Como, Italy, 29 October–2 November 2012. The meeting was science-based but policy-oriented. The role and amount of healthy and unhealthy fats, with attention to the relative content of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, sugar, and particularly fructose in foods that may underlie the epidemics of non-communicable diseases (NCD’s) worldwide were extensively discussed. The report concludes that sugar consumption, especially in the form of high energy fructose in soft drinks, poses a major and insidious health threat, especially in children, and most diets, although with regional differences, are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids and too high in omega-6 fatty acids. Gene-nutrient interactions in growth and development and in disease prevention are fundamental to health, therefore regional Centers on Genetics, Nutrition and Fitness for Health should be established worldwide. Heads of state and government must elevate, as a matter of urgency, Nutrition as a national priority, that access to a healthy diet should be considered a human right and that the lead responsibility for Nutrition should be placed in Ministries of Health rather than agriculture so that the health requirements drive agricultural priorities, not vice versa. Nutritional security should be given the same priority as food security.
The meeting on Healthy Agriculture, Healthy Nutrition, Healthy People took place at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center in Italy, 30 October–1 November 2012. The meeting was sponsored by The Center for Genetics Nutrition and Health, The Rockefeller Foundation, Green Templeton College of the University of Oxford, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Nutrilite Health Institute, Health Studies Collegium, Hellenic American University, and Hellenic American Union. The focus of the meeting was the Implementation of the Action Plan on Healthy Agriculture, Healthy Nutrition, Healthy People, which had been developed at the meeting on Healthy Agriculture, Healthy Nutrition, Healthy People, held at Ancient Olympia, Greece, 5–8 October 2010 [1,2].
The meeting in Bellagio was science-based but policy-oriented. There were 19 participants from 9 countries, including distinguished physicians, nutritionists, agriculturists, economists, policy experts, lawyers, representatives of industry and representatives from United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. This international constellation of expertise provided a superb opportunity for in depth discussions of the most current scientific evidence on sustainable agriculture and nutrition security for health.
The group’s broad, overall concerns were with human health, particularly child health, with societal economics, and with planetary ecosystems. Our lifestyles—including where we live, our activity levels, economic well-being and exposure to stress—all affect human health. We are also embedded in larger systems of agriculture, food cultures and food supply chains that can increase as well as decrease our chances of becoming and remaining healthy. At the same time that some children starve, others (sometimes in the same societies) are prone to obesity and other chronic diseases that stem from poor nutritional content of foods.
While many substances in the diet may affect health, the meeting focused primarily on those elements where the scientific evidence shows the link to be strongest and where the impact on the epidemic of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) worldwide is greatest.
Over the past 10 years there have been many reports on diet and chronic diseases, obesity, global health, and non-communicable diseases (NCD’s) issued by WHO-FAO, national governments, scientific institutions, medical associations and foundations. However, the novelty of this meeting was the emphasis on:
One of the important issues included in all the presentations, given over three days, was the obstacles governments face in implementing policies that would lead to optimal scientifically based diets for their populations. The sources of opposition to those policies were also discussed. Participants were asked to consider the complexities for government adoption of policy, including regional considerations, leadership issues (academic institutions, medical school education, industry, including agribusiness); management; economic issues (which was discussed in detail by Dr. Ole Faergeman of Denmark); and nutritional determinants of health. Specific attention was also given to commercial considerations with attention to developing policies without unnecessary negative impact on the food industry. However, it was agreed government must not be influenced by industry to pursue policies contrary to the health and nutrition needs of its people.
Two countries have initiated nutritional programs with demonstrable benefit on the nutrition and health of their peoples. In both instances a pre-condition for success was a high level of political commitment to assuring a strong food supply with optimal nutritional content. Dr. Dan L. Waitzberg (Brazil) gave a presentation of how Brazilian government policy, under presidential direction, has resulted in the “right to nutrition and food” for all of its citizens, and how this new policy has had an impact on the health of the Brazilian people . Similarly, Dr. Kraisid Tontisirin (Thailand) provided an exciting presentation on how the nutrition, agriculture and health departments of the Thai government have worked together to develop nutritional policies based on consideration of all three disciplines .
One of the more hotly discussed topics was on the role of the nutritional content of foods. This included a discussion of the role of healthy and unhealthy fats, with attention to the relative content of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in food by Dr. Artemis P. Simopoulos (USA) [13,14,15,16,17]. In addition, Dr. Richard J. Johnson (USA) reviewed the evidence that the worldwide increase in added sugars containing fructose may underlie the epidemics of obesity and diabetes [7,18,19,20].
The Bellagio Report was approved by the Participants of the Bellagio Meeting on “Healthy Agriculture, Healthy Nutrition, Healthy People”: Conference Chairs: Artemis P. Simopoulos, Peter G. Bourne, Ole Faergeman; Honorary Co-Chairs: Dan Glickman, Philip R. Lee; Participants: Jon Andrus, Gail C. Christopher, Sarath Gopalan, Russell Jaffe, Richard J. Johnson, Leonidas Koskos, Philippe Legrand, Duo Li, Ascensión Marcos, Anne M. Peniston, Sam Rehnborg, Laura A. Schmidt, Ian Scott, Kraisid Tontisirin, Dan L. Waitzberg.