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Contemporary nutritional transition: determinants of diet and its impact on body composition

  • Barry M. Popkin (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 22 November 2010

The world has experienced a marked shift in the global BMI distribution towards reduced undernutrition and increased obesity. The collision between human biology, shaped over the millennia and modern technology, globalization, government policies and food industry practices have worked to create far-reaching energy imbalance across the globe. A prime example is the clash between our drinking habits and our biology. The shift from water and breast milk as the only beverages available, to a vast array of caloric beverages was very rapid, shaped both by our tastes and aggressive marketing of the beverage industry. Our biology, shaped over millennia by daily consumption of water and seasonal availability of food, was not ready to compensate for the liquid energies. Other dietary changes were similarly significant, particularly the shift towards increased frequency of eating and larger portions. The roles of the food and beverage production, distribution and marketing sectors in not only shaping our diet but also accelerating these changes must be understood. Apart from the role of beverages, there is much less consensus about the role of various components of our diet in energy imbalance. Understanding the determinants of change in the key components of our diet through an array of research provides insights into some of the options we face in attempting to attain a great balance between energy intake and expenditures while creating an overall healthier dietary pattern. A few countries are systematically addressing the causes of poor dietary and physical activity patterns and high energy imbalance.

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Corresponding author: Professor Barry M. Popkin, fax +1 919 966 9159, email
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