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What We Eat: Changing Patterns of Food Consumption Around the World

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Document pages: 28 pages

Abstract: This paper explores changes in the level and composition of per capita food consumption across the world; it does not discuss intra-country inequalities in food access, nor the prevalence of hunger resulting from those inequalities. The world s food output has more than trebled since 1961 whilst population only doubled, causing a marked increase in per capita food supply. By 2011 the average human was consuming nearly 2900 daily kilocalories per person, up from less than 2200 in 1961; per capita protein intake had also increased significantly from 61 to 80 grams per day. Besides these overall increases in food consumption, the composition of the average diet also changed. One major finding in this regard is that per capita consumption of cereals reached a plateau (or slightly declined) in recent decades, whilst consumption of other foods increased significantly. All the increase in per capita dietary energy supply since 1990 reflects higher consumption of non-cereal food; per capita cereal food consumption stabilised or declined. The saturation level at which cereal food consumption stabilises seems to vary across regions, probably due to local culture and custom. Due to changing dietary patterns, some regions of the world have enormously increased their consumption of fats, especially vegetable oil, contributing to a growing obesity epidemic. In some regions, chiefly North America, this has been compounded by a significant increase in per capita consumption of sugar. But humans have also changed their diets in beneficial ways, consuming more pulses, fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, milk and eggs. These trends are present in all major regions, albeit varying across regions. Most of these trends imply greater intake of micronutrients. More diversified diets, with increased presence of fruits, vegetables and foods of animal origin, suggest that the micronutrient content of per capita food supply is increasing, at the world level and for all major regions.

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