The changing nutritional patterns in the wake of economic development

18 January 2021

New research from Dr Jonas Fooken and his Master student Link Vo shows that patterns of malnutrition are changing following economic development in Asian economies.

While previously described by a high prevalence of undernutrition in households, a double burden of concurrent overnutrition and undernutrition is becoming more common in this region as increasing numbers of households include stunted children, a reliable indicator of absolute nutritional deprivation in children, and overweight mothers.

Fooken and Vo’s analysis indicates that economic growth plays a comparatively minor role in directly causing this pattern. Instead, economic development appears to contribute to malnutrition indirectly by changing eating habits towards the consumption of high-energy but low-micronutrient foods. Furthermore, household-level factors, particularly wealth and education, both of which are influenced by economic growth indirectly, contribute to the rise in the double burden in Asia.

Study highlights

  • Increasing rates of Asian households with overweight mothers and stunted children.
  • Economic growth and the dual burden of malnutrition are correlated.
  • rising rates of the double burden primarily appear to be determined on the household level.
  • This indicates that policies are more promising if they address how household-level characteristics channel the effect of economic development as a determinant of SCOM (stunted child and overweight mother).

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