Understanding causes and consequences of dietary change

Food production and diets are a key link between the environment and human health. Sub-optimal diets can lead to malnutrition with serious health consequences: undernutrition is responsible for nearly half of all childhood deaths worldwideand unhealthy diets are causing a surge of chronic diseases. The size of the problem is large: two billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies and two billion are overweight,  At the same time, agriculture accounts for a quarter of net anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

The food system has enormous potential for climate change adaptation and mitigation with substantial health co-benefits ­– if we can increase food and nutrition security while reducing the environmental impact of agriculture and diets. Understanding the drivers and impacts of historic dietary change can inform this transformation.

When examining the changing food system, we try to expand the usual focus on supply metrics and include more dietary quality measures. Individual-level dietary data are scarce in many countries, and national information on food consumption is commonly derived from food balance sheets compiled by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).  While these data are useful to compare broad dietary trends over time and between countries, they cannot be disaggregated, making it impossible to study inequalities within populations. We therefore make use of data from Household Consumption and Expenditure Surveys (HCES), an economic survey conducted in many low- and middle-income countries, to estimate dietary change over time at the household level.

Thus far, our work has mainly focused on Bangladesh, a country that  has experienced dramatic reductions in child undernutrition and poverty since independence.

Project team:

External collaborators:

Shakuntala Thilsted, WorldFish


Waid, J.L., Sinharoy, S.S., Ali, M., Wendt, A.S., Gabrysch, S. (2021). What were the drivers of improving child nutritional status in Bangladesh? An analysis of national household data from 1992 to 2005 guided by the UNICEF framework. Journal of Nutritionhttps://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxaa425

Bodirsky, B.L., Dietrich, J.P., Martinelli, E., Stenstad, A., Pradhan, P., Gabrysch, S., Mishra, A., Weindl, I., Le Mouël, C., Rolinski, S., Baumstark, L., Wang, X., Waid, J. L., Lotze-Campen, H. & Popp, A. (2020). The Ongoing Nutrition Transition Thwarts Long-Term Targets for Food Security, Public Health and Environmental Protection. Scientific Reports 10 (1): 19778. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-75213-3.

Waid, J. L., Sinharoy, S. S., Ali, M., Thilsted, S. H., Gabrysch, S. (2018). Tracing dietary patterns and identifying determinants of changing diets in Bangladesh from 1985 to 2010. Current Developments in Nutrition. https://doi.org/10.1093/cdn/nzy091

Waid, J. L., Ali, M., Thilsted, S. H., Gabrysch, S. (2017). Dietary change in Bangladesh from 1985 to 2010 Global Food Security. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gfs.2017.09.003

Bogard, J. R., Farook, S., Marks, G. C., Waid, J., Belton, B., Ali, M., Toufique, K., Mamun, A., Thilsted, S. (2017) Higher fish but lower micronutrient intakes: Temporal changes in fish consumption from capture fisheries and aquaculture in Bangladesh. PLoS ONE. 12(4):e0175098. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0175098

de Brauw, A., Waid, J., Meisner, C., Akter, F., Khan, B., Alam, N., et al. (2019) Food systems for healthier diets in Bangladesh: Towards a research agenda. IFPRI Discussion Paper 1902. Washington, DC: International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). https://doi.org/10.2499/p15738coll2.133549

Waid, J. L., Bogard, J. R., Thilsted, S. H., Gabrysch, S. (2017). Estimates of average energy requirements in Bangladesh: Adult Male Equivalent values for use in analyzing household consumption and expenditure surveys. Data in Brief. 14(2017)101–106 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.dib.2017.07.022