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Global nutrition transition and the pandemic of obesity in developing countries



This article is corrected by:

  1. Errata: Corrigendum Volume 70, Issue 4, 256, Article first published online: 27 March 2012

  • Affiliations: BM Popkin, LS Adair, and SW Ng are with the Department of Nutrition and Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA.

BM Popkin, Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina, 123 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill, NC 27516, USA. E-mail:, Phone: +1-919-966-1732, Fax: +1-919-966-9159.


Decades ago, discussion of an impending global pandemic of obesity was thought of as heresy. But in the 1970s, diets began to shift towards increased reliance upon processed foods, increased away-from-home food intake, and increased use of edible oils and sugar-sweetened beverages. Reductions in physical activity and increases in sedentary behavior began to be seen as well. The negative effects of these changes began to be recognized in the early 1990s, primarily in low- and middle-income populations, but they did not become clearly acknowledged until diabetes, hypertension, and obesity began to dominate the globe. Now, rapid increases in the rates of obesity and overweight are widely documented, from urban and rural areas in the poorest countries of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia to populations in countries with higher income levels. Concurrent rapid shifts in diet and activity are well documented as well. An array of large-scale programmatic and policy measures are being explored in a few countries; however, few countries are engaged in serious efforts to prevent the serious dietary challenges being faced.