Synthesis and implications: China's nutrition transition in the context of changes across other low- and middle-income countries


  • B. M. Popkin

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Nutrition, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA
    • Address for correspondence: Dr BM Popkin, Carolina Population Center, University of North Carolina, 123 W. Franklin St., Chapel Hill, NC 27516, USA.


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The China Health and Nutrition Survey (CHNS) is important for its insights into current and future diet, physical activity, and obesity-related changes in China and for understanding underlying processes common across low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). While China modernized later than Latin American countries, many changes seen in China echo those in Latin America and in other LMICs. In general, changes in physical activity and diet behaviours in China have occurred at a faster pace relative to other LMICs. Modernization of the overall Chinese food system has lagged behind most other LMICs, yet the now-rapid changes in the Chinese food system are similar to what has been seen in other LMICs. Further, there is variation in these changes across social and geographic space. The incidence of obesity and non-communicable diseases has increased as the major health burden has shifted towards the poor. This paper examines changes in China and addresses the literature and issues that link these changes with those in other LMICs. In many ways, the detailed 20-year CHNS, with nine repeated measures, provides a remarkable window through which to understand nutrition-related changes in other LMICs.