Diet Diversification and Diet Quality in India: An Analysis
Our study examines changes in diets over the period 1993-2009. Diets have shifted away from cereals towards higher consumption of fruits, vegetables, oils and livestock products. Using household data, a food diversity index (FDI) is constructed, based on five food commodities. Significant price effects that vary over time are confirmed, as also income/expenditure effects. Over and above these effects, more sedentary life styles and less strenuous activity patterns played a significant role in shaping dietary patterns. An important finding is slowing down of dietary transition in the more recent sub-period 2004-09. Clues relate to weakening or strengthening of food price, expenditure and life-style effects over time. Using an instrumented measure of FDI in the second stage, and all other exogenous variables, its effects on nutrients' intakes are analysed. A common finding that food diversity is associated with better quality diet and higher intakes of nutrients is not corroborated. While there is a reduction in calorie intake, there are increases in protein and fat intakes. A case is made for provision of public goods, nutrition labelling, regulation of food standards, consumer awareness of healthy diets, food fortification and supplementation, and active involvement of the private sector in adhering to the regulatory standards and nutritional norms.
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