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Far East in brief

Mitsui eyeing new food acquisition, Japanese still the healthiest

By Compiled by RJ Whitehead , 14-Dec-2012

A round-up of the big stories coming from the Far East.

Japanese investment predator major eyeing food acquisition

The most acquisitive Japanese company in the last decade is looking for more targets outside of its traditional commodities businesses, and seems to have its sights set on the food industry.

A total of almost US$17bn is burning a hole in Mitsui’s pocket following decade-high profits last year. The 136-year-old trading house that gets most of its income from iron ore, and now has its targets on the food industry, among others, according to analysts.

There’s a demand-supply shift in food that we saw in iron ore 10 years ago,” said Benoit Descourtieux, president of OP Investment Management, which monitors the company’s activity.

With food, maybe they should make it one of the core businesses,” said Descourtieux. “Supply always catches up with demand on food, but there’s a time gap.” Unlike with iron ore, it’s rare for food capacity to expand and lead to large oversupply, he said.

In the year to date, Mitsui has made 29 acquisitions—including purchases made as part of joint ventures—valued at US$6.9bn in industries ranging from mining, healthcare and energy to pharmaceuticals and batteries, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

N. Korean child nutrition improving, but still a long way to go

Modest but significant,” was how Unicef’s representative in North Korea, Desiree Jongsma, described the improvements in childhood nutrition based on data from a new comprehensive national nutrition survey released by the government there.

The data was published in a preliminary report on results from a major national nutrition survey conducted between September and October.  It shows that stunting has decreased from 32.3% to 27.9% since 2009, while acute malnutrition is down from 5.2% to 4%, and the incidence of underweight children is down from 18.8% to 15.5%.

The slight gains in children’s nutrition in the country are very encouraging and they show that it is possible to improve the lives of children in North Korea,” Jongsma explained. 

But more than one in every four children remains stunted, hostage to life-long ill-health and reduced educational and career prospects as a result of a lack of much needed proteins, fruits, vegetables and fats, as well as frequent infections due to a lack of both essential medicines and clean water, as well as poor hygiene. It will take strong involvement from government, donors and international agencies to provide these children with a chance on a healthier future.”

Study in S. Korea links Vitamin D with rheumatoid arthritis prevention

Vitamin D insufficiency may increase the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, according to a new South Korean study in clinical rheumatology.

GG Song and colleagues from Korea University Anam Hospital in Seoul meta-analysed data from previous studies, finding that individuals with low serum Vitamin D were at high risk of rheumatoid arthritis.

The research found that those taking the highest amounts of Vitamin D supplements were over 26% less likely to develop the condition, compared with those taking the lowest amounts.

The researchers concluded that “meta-analysis of 215,757 participants suggests that low Vitamin D intake is associated with an elevated risk of rheumatoid arthritis development. Furthermore, available evidence indicates that Vitamin D level is associated with rheumatoid arthritis activity.”

Japanese still the world’s healthiest population

Japan boasts the world’s healthiest population following the publication of results from a decades-long study.

The Global Burden of Disease Study looked at health and disease across 187 countries, finding that Japan was still the healthiest—a title it earned 23 years ago in the same study.

While Japan tops the men and women’s category, South Korea is another Far East representative in the men’s list, taking tenth spot. For women, South Korea closely follows Japan, in second place, while Taiwan comes fifth.

The study, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, also found that women are losing more healthy years to disability than men.

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