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Nutrient intake: A cross-national analysis of trends and economic correlates


  • Dave, Dhaval
  • Doytch, Nadia
  • Kelly, Inas Rashad


Nutrition is a key input in the health production function, and a better understanding of how we eat can aid in guiding effective policy change towards better population health. This study documents prevalence rates, trends in, and potential correlates of nutrient intake for panels of countries, categorized by geographical regions and levels of development. We assemble data from 209 countries, spanning 51 years (1961–2011), based on original data compilations using 960 country-years for BMI, 370 country-years for glucose, and 321 country-years for cholesterol. Our estimates inform the nature and scope of nutrient intake on a global scale, and contribute towards an understanding of the drivers of the general upward trend in food intake and obesity. The cross-national trends, across countries spanning the spectrum of economic development and geographic regions, suggest that simply analyzing aggregate caloric intake masks the heterogeneity in trends for the various food groups. Food groups analyzed include cereals, sugars and sweeteners, vegetable oils, meat, starch, milk, fruits, animal fats, alcoholic beverages, oil crops, pulses, vegetables, fish, and eggs. Fixed effects regression analyses reveal that caloric intake is strongly associated with hunger depth, body mass index, cholesterol levels, and glucose levels. Moreover, changes in real GDP per capita, labor force participation, and health care inputs in a nation can partly explain the increase in caloric intake. We note that substantial heterogeneity remains.

Suggested Citation

  • Dave, Dhaval & Doytch, Nadia & Kelly, Inas Rashad, 2016. "Nutrient intake: A cross-national analysis of trends and economic correlates," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 158(C), pages 158-167.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:158:y:2016:i:c:p:158-167
    DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.04.021

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Beghin, John C. & Jensen, Helen H., 2008. "Farm policies and added sugars in US diets," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(6), pages 480-488, December.
    2. McCarthy, Mark & Cluzel, Elodie & Dressel, Kerstin & Newton, Rachel, 2013. "Food and health research in Europe: Structures, gaps and futures," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(C), pages 64-71.
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    5. Dave, Dhaval M. & Kelly, Inas Rashad, 2012. "How does the business cycle affect eating habits?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 74(2), pages 254-262.
    6. Nadia Doytch & Dhaval M Dave & Inas Rashad Kelly, 2016. "Global Evidence on Obesity and Related Outcomes: An Overview of Prevalence, Trends, and Determinants," Eastern Economic Journal, Palgrave Macmillan;Eastern Economic Association, vol. 42(1), pages 7-28, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Yoshinori Nakagawa & Koji Kotani, 2017. "Perceptive and socio-economic predictors of varied fruit and vegetable intake," Working Papers SDES-2017-1, Kochi University of Technology, School of Economics and Management, revised Feb 2017.
    2. Goryakin, Yevgeniy & Rocco, Lorenzo & Suhrcke, Marc, 2017. "The contribution of urbanization to non-communicable diseases: Evidence from 173 countries from 1980 to 2008," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 26(C), pages 151-163.
    3. Kelly, Inas R. & Doytch, Nadia & Dave, Dhaval, 2019. "How does body mass index affect economic growth? A comparative analysis of countries by levels of economic development," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 34(C), pages 58-73.

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    More about this item


    Multi-country comparison; Nutrient intake; Calories; Global nutrition; Economic correlates; Health;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I1 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health


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