Food Consumption Patterns

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Appetite 55 (2010) 597–608

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Food consumption patterns and economic growth. Increasing affluence and the use of natural resources P.W. Gerbens-Leenes a,*, S. Nonhebel b, M.S. Krol a
a b

Faculty of Engineering Technology, Water Engineering and Management, University of Twente, P.O. Box 217, 7500 AE, The Netherlands Center for Energy and Environmental Studies (IVEM), University of Groningen, Nijenborg 4, 9747 AG Groningen, The Netherlands



Article history: Received 11 March 2010 Received in revised form 1 September 2010 Accepted 14 September 2010 Keywords: Dietary change Economic development Natural resource use Nutrition transition Food consumption patterns

This study analyzes relationships between food supply, consumption and income, taking supply, meat and dairy, and consumption composition (in macronutrients) as indicators, with annual per capita GDP as indicator for income. It compares food consumption patterns for 57 countries (2001) and gives time trends for western and southern Europe. Cross-sectional and time series relationships show similar patterns of change. For low income countries, GDP increase is accompanied by changes towards food consumption patterns with large gaps between supply and actual consumption. Total supply differs by a factor of two between low and high income countries. People in low income countries derive nutritional energy mainly from carbohydrates; the contribution of fats is small, that of protein the same as for high income countries and that of meat and dairy negligible. People in high income countries derive nutritional energy mainly from carbohydrates and fat, with substantial contribution of meat and dairy. Whenever and wherever economic growth occurs, food consumption shows similar change in direction. The European nutrition transition happened gradually, enabling agriculture and trade to keep pace with demand growth. Continuation of present economic trends might cause significant pressure on natural resources, because changes in food demand occur much faster than in the past, especially in Asia. ß 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Introduction At present, the world faces enormous challenges over food security (Millenium Ecosystems Assesment, 2005), which threaten the availability and quality of natural resources such as arable lands, freshwater and natural areas (FAO, 2003; Hoekstra & Chapagain, 2008; WWF, 2007). The potential impacts of climate change are likely to worsen this situation (Fischer, Van Velthuizen, Shah, & Nachtergaele, 2002). Globally, food consumption gives rise to the greatest use of land (FAO, 2003; Penning de Vries et al., 1995) and freshwater (Falkenmark, 1989; FAO, 2003; Hoekstra & Chapagain, 2008; Rockstrom, 1999; Rosegrant & Ringler, 1998) and is an important cause of greenhouse gas emissions (Carlsson¨ Kanyama, Engstrom, & Kok, 2005; Kramer, 2000). The current growth in the world population requires the production of more food. As well as population growth, most areas of the world have shown economic development that resulted in increased Abbreviations: A%, average supply of nutritional energy from animal sources (%); E%, energy percentage; FAO, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; GDP, gross domestic product; GE, grain equivalents; G-K dollars, 1990 International Geary-Khamis dollars; PPP, purchasing power parity; WHO, World Health Organization. * Corresponding author. E-mail address: (P.W. Gerbens-Leenes). 0195-6663/$ – see front matter ß 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2010.09.013

purchasing power, causing not only a demand for more food (Latham, 2000) but also for different food. Studies on human nutrition have shown that worldwide a nutrition transition is taking place, in which people shift...
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