Modernization, urbanization, economic development, and increased wealth lead to predictable shifts in diet, referred to as “nutrition transitions.” (1, 2) Researchers divide the nutrition transition into five patterns:
- Pattern 1 Hunter Gatherer: Individuals live highly active lifestyles, hunting and foraging for food. Diets typically are rich in fibrous plants and high in protein from lean wild animals.
- Pattern 2 Early Agriculture: Famine is common, slowing individuals growth and decreasing their body fat.
- Pattern 3 End of Famine: Famine recedes as income rises and nutrition improves.
- Pattern 4 Overeating, Obesity-Related Diseases: As income continues to rise, individuals have access to an abundance of high-calorie foods, and they become less active, leading to increases in obesity and obesity-related chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.
- Pattern 5 Behavior Change: In response to increasing rates of obesity and obesity-related chronic diseases, individuals change their behaviorand communities promote behavior changesto prevent these conditions.
Currently, most low- and middle-income countries are rapidly moving from pattern 3 (end of famine) to pattern 4 (consuming more energy-dense diets). This shift from traditional diets to Western-style diets has been a key contributor to the obesity epidemic in low- and middle-income countries.
1. Misra A, Khurana L. Obesity and the metabolic syndrome in developing countries. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008; 93:S930.
2. Popkin BM. Global nutrition dynamics: the world is shifting rapidly toward a diet linked with noncommunicable diseases. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006; 84:28998.