24 Feb 2015

World's diet has deteriorated

4:25 pm on 24 February 2015

A study on international eating habits has found the world's diet has deteriorated substantially over the past two decades.

Grapefruit and orange in a fruit and vegetable store called Farmville in Grey Lynn, Auckland.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, it said poor countries in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, including India and China, were seeing the fastest increases in unhealthy food consumption driven by processed foods, high in sugar, fat and starch.

Dariush Mozaffarian, Dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, noted that the situation had improved slightly in Western Europe and North America.

He co-authored the study, published in the March edition of the Lancet Global Health journal, which found a dramatic increase in the consumption in unhealthy foods in middle and low income countries since 1990.

In the same period, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation cited a drop by 209 million to 805 million in the number of hungry people worldwide.

The researchers blame the globalisation of western diets and the power of a small group of food and agriculture companies for the shift.

The study reviewed 325 dietary surveys, representing almost 90 percent of the world's population, in what is thought to be the largest study yet of international eating habits.

On average, it found that older adults had substantially better diets than younger adults, as did women compared with men.

Read the original study here.