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      Uneven dietary development: linking the policies and processes of globalization with the nutrition transition, obesity and diet-related chronic diseases

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      Globalization and Health
      BioMed Central

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          Abstract

          In a "nutrition transition", the consumption of foods high in fats and sweeteners is increasing throughout the developing world. The transition, implicated in the rapid rise of obesity and diet-related chronic diseases worldwide, is rooted in the processes of globalization. Globalization affects the nature of agri-food systems, thereby altering the quantity, type, cost and desirability of foods available for consumption. Understanding the links between globalization and the nutrition transition is therefore necessary to help policy makers develop policies, including food policies, for addressing the global burden of chronic disease. While the subject has been much discussed, tracing the specific pathways between globalization and dietary change remains a challenge.

          To help address this challenge, this paper explores how one of the central mechanisms of globalization, the integration of the global marketplace, is affecting the specific diet patterns. Focusing on middle-income countries, it highlights the importance of three major processes of market integration: (I) production and trade of agricultural goods; (II) foreign direct investment in food processing and retailing; and (III) global food advertising and promotion.

          The paper reveals how specific policies implemented to advance the globalization agenda account in part for some recent trends in the global diet. Agricultural production and trade policies have enabled more vegetable oil consumption; policies on foreign direct investment have facilitated higher consumption of highly-processed foods, as has global food marketing. These dietary outcomes also reflect the socioeconomic and cultural context in which these policies are operating.

          An important finding is that the dynamic, competitive forces unleashed as a result of global market integration facilitates not only convergence in consumption habits (as is commonly assumed in the "Coca-Colonization" hypothesis), but adaptation to products targeted at different niche markets. This convergence-divergence duality raises the policy concern that globalization will exacerbate uneven dietary development between rich and poor. As high-income groups in developing countries accrue the benefits of a more dynamic marketplace, lower-income groups may well experience convergence towards poor quality obseogenic diets, as observed in western countries.

          Global economic polices concerning agriculture, trade, investment and marketing affect what the world eats. They are therefore also global food and health policies. Health policy makers should pay greater attention to these policies in order to address some of the structural causes of obesity and diet-related chronic diseases worldwide, especially among the groups of low socioeconomic status.

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          Socioeconomic status and obesity in adult populations of developing countries: a review.

          A landmark review of studies published prior to 1989 on socioeconomic status (SES) and obesity supported the view that obesity in the developing world would be essentially a disease of the socioeconomic elite. The present review, on studies conducted in adult populations from developing countries, published between 1989 and 2003, shows a different scenario for the relationship between SES and obesity. Although more studies are necessary to clarify the exact nature of this relationship, particularly among men, three main conclusions emerge from the studies reviewed: 1. Obesity in the developing world can no longer be considered solely a disease of groups with higher SES. 2. The burden of obesity in each developing country tends to shift towards the groups with lower SES as the country's gross national product (GNP) increases. 3. The shift of obesity towards women with low SES apparently occurs at an earlier stage of economic development than it does for men. The crossover to higher rates of obesity among women of low SES is found at a GNP per capita of about US$ 2500, the mid-point value for lower-middle-income economies. The results of this review reinforce the urgent need to: include obesity prevention as a relevant topic on the public health agenda in developing countries; improve the access of all social classes in these countries to reliable information on the determinants and consequences of obesity; and design and implement consistent public actions on the physical, economic, and sociocultural environment that make healthier choices concerning diet and physical activity feasible for all. A significant step in this direction was taken with the approval of the Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health by the World Health Assembly in May 2004.
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            The nutrition transition and its health implications in lower-income countries.

            This article reviews information on the rapid changes in diet, activity and body composition that lower- and middle-income countries are undergoing and then examines some of the potential health implications of this transition. Data came from numerous countries and also from national food balance (FAOSTAT) and World Bank sources. Nationally representative and nationwide surveys are used. The nationally representative Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Surveys from 1992-96 and the nationwide China Health and Nutrition Survey from 1989-93 are examined in detail. Rapid changes in the structure of diet, in particular associated with urbanization, are documented. In addition, large changes in occupation types are documented. These are linked with rapid increases in adult obesity in Latin America and Asia. Some of the potential implications for adult health are noted. The rapid changes in diet, activity and obesity that are facing billions of residents of lower- and middle-income countries are cause for great concern. Linked with these changes will be a rapid increase in chronic diseases. Little to date has been done at the national level to address these problems.
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              The Nutrition Transition: New Trends in the Global Diet

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Global Health
                Globalization and Health
                BioMed Central (London )
                1744-8603
                2006
                28 March 2006
                : 2
                : 4
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Food Consumption and Nutrition Division, International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington DC, USA
                Article
                1744-8603-2-4
                10.1186/1744-8603-2-4
                1440852
                16569239
                a53cd0d7-439d-4b98-b580-08e6affd4851
                Copyright © 2006 Hawkes; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                History
                : 5 October 2005
                : 28 March 2006
                Categories
                Review

                Health & Social care
                Health & Social care

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