The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said almost 1.9 billion people are overweight and some 650 million people are obese globally.
FAO Director-General Jose da Silva said at the opening of a regional conference in Montego Bay in Jamaica, that governments must keep the fight against malnutrition at the top of their agenda.
Da Silva said the situation was most worrying in Latin America, where about 96 million adults were obese.
He said a “radical transformation” of food systems and food habits was critical to combat the growing scourge of overweight and obesity in Latin America and the Caribbean.
“Eradicating hunger must not be our only concern, in a region where seven per cent of children under the age of five are overweight and 20 percent of adults in 24 countries are obese,” Da Silva said.
In addition to the growing threat of obesity and the ailments that often accompany it, the region had also seen the number of people suffering from undernutrition rising to 42.5 million, up 2.5 million, from the previous figure of 40 million.
To address these challenges, creation of “really sustainable food systems” in which production, trade, transport and consumption combine to guarantee a really nutritional food intake is vital, he said.
“Eating fresh locally-grown produce in place of highly-processed foods is fundamental,” the head of the UN agency stressed.
According to him, doing so will also help advance the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the global development goals related to ending hunger, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture.
At the same time, introduction of social protection measures to strengthen family farming can also play an important part in combatting various forms of malnutrition, as well as reduce rural poverty, da Silva said.
He also urged Governments to promote adaptation of agriculture to the changing climate, and to do so in a way that protects poor rural communities.