Dietary Trends International

What foods an individual eats is affected by the ability to access foods. Economic status, geography, and politics have influenced the diets of people throughout history. Poverty is linked to malnutrition, while economic growth and a rise in population pose new nutritional problems. Ironically, diets high in complex carbohydrates and fiber in poor economic times give way to consumption of foods high in sugars and fat when economic conditions improve.

Between 1995 and 1997, among countries that showed an increase in per capita incomes, average caloric consumption also showed a significant increase. Between 1970 and 1972, and between 1996 and 1997, world consumption of calories from complex carbohydrates fell by 30 percent while the consumption of calories from meat increased by a third (33%) and those from vegetable oil by almost half (46.2%). As nations become wealthier, people move from eating "a poor man's diet" of high levels of grains, fruits, and vegetables to consuming diets with more fats and sugar. Fat still remains the food for the rich—with more income, people start to eat more meat and poultry, and vegetable oils become more available. Combined with cane and corn sugars, vegetable oils are used to produce baked goods and snack foods high in calories.

Young Chinese attend a weight-loss lecture in Shanghai. A trend toward obesity in many nations is accompanied by obsession over body image. During 2002, several citizens of Asian nations died and hundreds were sickened when they took a popular diet pill that was known to cause health problems. [AP/Wide World Photos. Reproduced by permission.]

Young Chinese attend a weight-loss lecture in Shanghai. A trend toward obesity in many nations is accompanied by obsession over body image. During 2002, several citizens of Asian nations died and hundreds were sickened when they took a popular diet pill that was known to cause health problems. [AP/Wide World Photos. Reproduced by permission.]

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