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Importance of government policies and other influences in transforming global diets

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Abstract

The Second International Conference on Nutrition, organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization, will take place in November 2014. In 1992, the First International Conference on Nutrition declared, “Hunger and malnutrition are unacceptable.” Twenty-two years later, it is timely to revisit the state of global nutrition and examine the forces that have brought change to diets worldwide. Calorie availability has increased throughout the world, even in the least-developed countries, where per capita availability has grown by 10%. As a consequence, the proportion of undernourished people has fallen, yet obesity has emerged as a major public health concern, primarily in developed countries but also among the growing middle classes in middle- and low-income countries. Globally, the nutrition transition has been affected by increased intakes of livestock products, processed foods, and fast foods. These changes are most readily explained by economic growth, urbanization, and globalization. International trade and liberalization of investment have been the key policy drivers of dietary change.

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