Urbanization and the Nutrition Transition
Corinna Hawkes, Jody Harris, and Stuart Gillespie
- Diets are changing with rising incomes and urbanization—people are consuming more animal-source foods, sugar, fats and oils, refined grains, and processed foods.
- This “nutrition transition” is causing increases in overweight and obesity and diet-related diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
- Urban residents are making the nutrition transition fastest—but it is occurring in rural areas too.
- Urban food environments—with supermarkets, food vendors, and restaurants—facilitate access to unhealthy diets, although they can also improve access to nutritious foods for people who can afford them.
- For the urban poor, the most easily available and affordable diets are often unhealthy.
Policy and Research Needs
- What are people eating and how is the urban food environment shaping their food choices?
- Which national and municipal level policies—such as food-labeling requirements to provide consumers with more information, taxes on less healthy foods, school meal programs, and affordable “popular” restaurants—have improved nutrition for urban residents?
- How can food retailers and food services make a greater contribution toward creating an enabling environment for good nutrition?
- What positive experiences with policies to address the nutrition transition can point policy makers in a promising direction?