The 2023 Annual Lecture of the Ghana Academy of Art and Sciences (GAAS) was delivered on October 5th 2023. The Academy is Ghana’s Premier Learned Society, which was founded in November 1959 by the Ghana Instrument of Incorporation with the aim to bring together the highest level of intellectuals, experts, and professionals to constitute a ‘Think Tank’ in the Arts and Sciences to advise government and other relevant bodies on the issues of importance to national development.
The Academy introduced Annual lectures both in the Sciences and Humanities in 1953. The lectures are delivered twice every year both in Sciences and Humanities, with the aim to create a platform where Fellows take their turns to address topical issues in the humanities and the sciences.
This year’s Annual Lecture in the Sciences was delivered by Professor Amos Laar, a Fellow, and a Professor of Public Health Nutrition at the University of Ghana, School of Public Health. Titled “‘Food and Public Health’ Professor Laar reiterated the FAO’s proclamation that, if “food” is deemed not, safe, then it is not food. He went further to argue that if “food” is deemed not healthy, then it is not good food.
Organized in-person at the Auditorium of the Academy, the lecture was attended by esteemed Fellows of the Academy including one of its Vice Presidents – Emerita Professor Isabella Akyinba Quakyi, Professor Anna Lartey, a renowned Ghanaian professor of nutrition, Professor Barry Popkin – the professor who developed the concept of the Nutrition Transition.
Prof Amos Laar noted that, despite some reduction in food insecurity and undernutrition, Ghana still faces the triple burden of malnutrition. To a large extent, this is due to fast nutrition transitioning and the increasing demand for imported ultra-processed foods (UPFs).
Prof Laar re-iterated that consumption of unhealthy food such as UPFs, sweet beverages and foods high in salts and unhealthy fats are driven by unhealthy food environments. These are contributing to the problem of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Ghana. Such diseases and are predicted to become the leading cause of death in Ghana by 2030.
On the issue of what food is, and what humans should eat, Prof Amos Laar, indicated that humans eat real foods. Referencing the work of an American food writer – Michael Pollan, Prof Laar said “real foods are things that our great grandmothers would recognize as food” and that ultra-processed foods are not real food, are unhealthy and hence unsafe for consumption. The lecture was climaxed with some thought-provoking questions on Ghana’s food environment and food policies such as SSBs taxes from the attendees as well as a response to them.
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