Public Health Nutrition

Research Article

A new stage of the nutrition transition in China

Shufa Dua1a2, Bing Lua2, Fengying Zhaia1 and Barry M Popkina2 c1

a1 Institute of Nutrition and Food Hygiene, Chinese Academy of Preventive Medicine, Beijing, People's Republic of China

a2 Department of Nutrition, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 123 West Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516-3997, USA


Objective: To fully explore the long-term shifts in the nutrition transition and the full implications of these changes in the Chinese diet.

Design: A descriptive, population-based study.

Setting: Data come from nationally representative surveys: the China Health and Nutrition Survey (1989–1997), the China National Nutrition Survey (1982 and 1992), the annual household consumption surveys of the State Statistical Bureau, and the Annual Death Report of China.

Results: During the first part of the major economic transformation in China (before 1985), cereal intake increased but decreased thereafter. There was also a long-term reduction of vegetable consumption that has now stabilised. Intake of animal foods increased slowly before 1979 and more quickly after the economic reforms occurred. While the total energy intake of residents has decreased, as has energy expenditure, large changes in the composition of energy have occurred. The overall proportion of energy from fat increased quickly, reaching an overall average of 27.3% and 32.8% for urban residents in 1997. Over a third of all Chinese adults and 60.1% of those in urban areas consumed over 30% of their energy from fat in 1997. Large shifts towards increased inactivity at work and leisure occurred. These changes are linked with rapid increases of overweight, obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases (DRNCDs) as well as total mortality for urban residents.

Conclusions: The long-term trend is a shift towards a high-fat, high-energy-density and low-fibre diet. The Chinese have entered a new stage of the nutrition transition.


c1 *Corresponding author: Email