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Mapping food insecurity in big cities of the world

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Locally, in Sacramento, food insecurity and sustainability might depend on what part of town you live in and how accessible is food to you on your budget and ability to travel to food stores or participate in urban gardening and sustainability or rely on nearby fast food. Baby boomers and their parents are food insecurity locally in the USA. In fact, 4.8 million Americans over age 60 are food insecure.

It gets worse in capital cities around the world where people want to eat local. But when local food isn't there, then these people have to depend on importing food from other places. Gobal food security is big news for researchers interested in who has access to food in the major cities of the world. Scientists have mapped food security and self-provision of major cities in a new study, says the December 12, 2013 news release on global food security, "Scientists map food security and self-provision of major cities."

What areas of the major cities of the globe have the best food security in the world? Is it based on neighborhoods or individual families? The surprising results in the variation people have on their dependence of the global food market. There are wealthy capital cities in the world and then there's the rest of us with variation as the results when it comes to food security and sustainability.

Variation in dependence on the global food markets

Wealthy capital cities vary greatly in their dependence on the global food market. The Australian capital Canberra produces the majority of its most common food in its regional hinterland, while Tokyo primarily ensures its food security through import.

The Copenhagen hinterland produces less than half of the consumption of the most common foods. For the first time, researchers have mapped the food systems of capital cities, an essential insight for future food security if population growth, climate change and political instability will affect the open market. Several partners in the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU) are behind the study.

"The three major cities in our study achieve food security by different degrees of self-provision and national and global market trade. It is important to understand such food flows in order to relate it to the energy challenge and the risk of national political unrest caused by food shortages and its effect on the open food trade," says Professor Dr. John R. Porter from the University of Copenhagen, according to the December 12, 2013 news release on global food security, "Scientists map food security and self-provision of major cities." Porter is the leading author on the study recently published online in the journal Global Food Security.

John R. Porter is also the main lead author of the forthcoming report from the IPCC Working Group 2 on food production systems and food security, which will be released following governments’ review, in March 2014. Higher farmland yields have influenced the cities self-provisioning over the past 40 years, but overall the ability of cities to feed themselves is unlikely to keep pace with increasing population, the research shows. Also you may wish to check out a 2008 publication, "The coping strategies index: A tool for rapid measurement of household food security and the impact of food aid programs in humanitarian emergencies."

Self-provisioning does not increase in line with population growth

Particularly in the capitals of Australia and Japan, where the population has increased tremendously over the past 40 years, the self-provision has declined; in Canberra from 150 to 90 percent and in Tokyo from 41 to 27 percent. This is despite the increase in yield of agricultural land per hectare. Copenhagen on the other hand, has increased its self-provision slightly from 34 to 45 percent because its population has remained fairly constant.

You also may wish to read about other studies such as, "Integrating publicly available web mapping tools for cartographic visualization of community food insecurity: a prototype." Or see other studies such as, "Mapping Human Insecurity" and "Taking planetary nutrient boundaries seriously: Can we feed the people?"

What about eating local?

Dr. John R. Porter looks at the local capacity to supply a city. “When the local capacity to supply a city declines, it becomes more dependent on the global market. As an example, Japan imported wheat from 600,000 hectares of foreign farmland to meet the demand of their capital and surrounding region in 2005. This means that large cities should now start to invest in urban agriculture especially if climate change has large effects on food production and other parts of the food chain in the future,” says John R Porter, according to the news release.

The study has exclusively focused on the historical and current production and not considered whether changes in land management practices can increase productivity further or whether consumers are willing to limit their intake to local seasonally available goods. It did not include citizen-based production from allotments, urban gardens, and other sources.

Scientific debate on food security and urbanization

More than half the human population lives in or near cities. That has increased global food transportation which makes up 15 percent of the global greenhouse gas emissions. Both food security and urbanization is on the program for next year’s major international conference on sustainability hosted by the International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU) partnership. John Porter is organizing the session on global challenges and sustainable solutions related to food security.

“The congress will be an important event to discuss new insight in global food security and the different challenges faced by rural and urban populations. Also, we get a unique chance to stimulate the discussion with input from expertise of other disciplines, such as economy, biodiversity and health”.

The congress is hosted locally by the University of Copenhagen and takes place in October 2014. Registration is open with an early bird discount until 31 March 2014. Submission of scientific contributions opens January 1, 2014 and will stay open for three months. For more information on sustainability, check out the IARUS Congress site on sustainability.

Exercise in middle age may protect against progressive muscle weakness when you're older

On another note, besides eating, people need exercise, even it means just strolling down the street. Regular exercise in middle age protects against muscle weakness later in life, says a new study explained in the December 14, 2013 news release, "Regular exercise in middle age protects against muscle weakness later in life." You can read the abstract of the study, "Prevalence of sarcopenia and its association with exercise habits in the elderly of Japanese population-based cohorts: the Road Study," just published online in the journal Osteoporosis International, Vol. 2, Supplement, 4. 2013.

You also can take a look at the article, "Regular exercise in middle age protects against muscle weakness later in life," or check out the video, Regular Exercise During Middle Age Can Help Strength Later On. A new Japanese study shows exercise in middle age is a protective factor against sarcopenia (muscle weakness and/or muscle wasting in the elderly) and effective in maintaining muscle strength and physical performance. During this week (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) the International Osteoporosis Foundation is having its annual meeting in Hong Kong, with numerous presentations each day of the meeting's plenary sessions.

A cross-sectional study by investigators from Tokyo University has found that exercising in middle age is a protective factor against sarcopenia and effective in maintaining muscle strength and physical performance. Sarcopenia is a disease associated with the aging process, resulting in loss of skeletal muscle mass and muscle strength and/or function in the elderly. The multiple adverse health outcomes include physical disability, poor quality of life and premature death.

Sarcopenia and the aging process: From handgrip strength to gait and muscle mass

The study assessed the prevalence of sarcopenia and its association with physical performance in 1000 elderly Japanese participants (349 men and 651 women aged ≥65 years) enrolled in the Research on Osteoarthritis/Osteoporosis Against Disability (ROAD) Study. Handgrip strength, gait speed, and skeletal muscle mass were measured and other information collected, including exercise habits in middle age.

The prevalence of sarcopenia was 13.8% in men and 12.4% in women, and tended to be significantly higher with increasing age in both sexes. Factors associated with sarcopenia were chair stand time (odds ratio [OR], 1.09; 95% CI, 1.04-1.14), one-leg standing time (OR, 0.97; 95% CI, 0.96-0.99), and exercise habit in middle age (OR, 0.53; 95% CI, 0.31-0.90) after adjusting for age, sex and body mass index (BMI).

Exercise habit in middle age was associated with low prevalence of muscle weakness in older age

Analysis showed that exercise habit in middle age was associated with low prevalence of sarcopenia in older age and was significantly associated with grip strength, gait speed, and one-leg standing time after adjusting for age, sex and BMI. The study was presented at the IOF Regionals 4th Asia-Pacific Osteoporosis Meeting, being held in Hong Kong from December 12–15, 2013. You also can check out, "Abstract OC11: Prevalence of sarcopenia and its association with exercise habits in the elderly of Japanese population-based cohorts: the Road Study, Osteoporosis Int, Vol. 2, Suppl. 4. 2013. Also, you may wish to check out the Facebook and Twitter sites on bone health, or the International Osteoporosis Foundation on bone health.

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