Research Article

The nutrition transition and its health implications in lower-income countries

Barry M Popkina1 c1

a1 Department of Nutrition, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA


Objective: This article reviews information on the rapid changes in diet, activity and body composition that lower- and middle-income countries are undergoing and then examines some of the potential health implications of this transition.

Design and Setting: Data came from numerous countries and also from national food balance (FAOSTAT) and World Bank sources. Nationally representative and nationwide surveys are used. The nationally representative Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Surveys from 1992–96 and the nationwide China Health and Nutrition Survey from 1989–93 are examined in detail.

Results: Rapid changes in the structure of diet, in particular associated with urbanization, are documented. In addition, large changes in occupation types are documented. These are linked with rapid increases in adult obesity in Latin America and Asia. Some of the potential implications for adult health are noted.

Conclusions: The rapid changes in diet, activity and obesity that are facing billions of residents of lower- and middle-income countries are cause for great concern. Linked with these changes will be a rapid increase in chronic diseases. Little to date has been done at the national level to address these problems.

(Received October 17 1997)

(Accepted November 29 1997)


c1 *Corresponding author: E-mail POPKIN@UNC.EDU