Proceedings of the Nutrition Society

Research Article

Epidemiological and nutrition transition in developing countries: impact on human health and development

The epidemiological and nutrition transition in developing countries: evolving trends and their impact in public health and human development

The Second Africa Nutritional Epidemiology Conference, was held at Gimpa, Legon, Ghana.

Paul Amunaa1 c1 and Francis B. Zotora1

a1 School of Science, University of Greenwich, Medway Campus, Chatham Maritime, Kent ME4 4TB, UK


Whereas common infectious and parasitic diseases such as malaria and the HIV/AIDS pandemic remain major unresolved health problems in many developing countries, emerging non-communicable diseases relating to diet and lifestyle have been increasing over the last two decades, thus creating a double burden of disease and impacting negatively on already over-stretched health services in these countries. Prevalence rates for type 2 diabetes mellitus and CVD in sub-Saharan Africa have seen a 10-fold increase in the last 20 years. In the Arab Gulf current prevalence rates are between 25 and 35% for the adult population, whilst evidence of the metabolic syndrome is emerging in children and adolescents. The present review focuses on the concept of the epidemiological and nutritional transition. It looks at historical trends in socio-economic status and lifestyle and trends in nutrition-related non-communicable diseases over the last two decades, particularly in developing countries with rising income levels, as well as the other extreme of poverty, chronic hunger and coping strategies and metabolic adaptations in fetal life that predispose to non-communicable disease risk in later life. The role of preventable environmental risk factors for obesity and the metabolic syndrome in developing countries is emphasized and also these challenges are related to meeting the millennium development goals. The possible implications of these changing trends for human and economic development in poorly-resourced healthcare settings and the implications for nutrition training are also discussed.


c1 Corresponding author: Dr Paul Amuna, fax +44 208 331 9805, email