Multidimensional characterization of global food supply from 1961 to 2013

Abstract

Food systems are increasingly globalized and interdependent, and diets around the world are changing. Characterization of national food supplies and how they have changed can inform food policies that ensure national food security, support access to healthy diets and enhance environmental sustainability. Here we analysed data for 171 countries on the availability of 18 food groups from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization to identify and track multidimensional food supply patterns from 1961 to 2013. Four predominant food-group combinations were identified that explained almost 90% of the cross-country variance in food supply: animal source and sugar, vegetable, starchy root and fruit, and seafood and oilcrops. South Korea, China and Taiwan experienced the largest changes in food supply over the past five decades, with animal source foods and sugar, vegetables and seafood and oilcrops all becoming more abundant components of the food supply. In contrast, in many Western countries the supply of animal source foods and sugar declined. Meanwhile, there was remarkably little change in the food supply in countries in the sub-Saharan Africa region. These changes led to a partial global convergence in the national supply of animal source foods and sugar, and a divergence in those of vegetables and of seafood and oilcrops. Our analysis generated a novel characterization of food supply that highlights the interdependence of multiple food types in national food systems. A better understanding of how these patterns have evolved and will continue to change is needed to support the delivery of healthy and sustainable food system policies.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Fig. 1: Loadings of each food group for the four food supply scores.
Fig. 2: Mean food supply scores by country.
Fig. 3: Overall change in national food supply from 1961–1965 to 2009–2013.

Data availability

The data analysed in this study are published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and are available from http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/FBS. The results of this study (that is, the scores and change index) are available from the website of the NCD Risk Factor Collaboration at http://ncdrisc.org/publications.html.

References

  1. 1.

    Popkin, B. M. Relationship between shifts in food system dynamics and acceleration of the global nutrition transition. Nutr. Rev. 75, 73–82 (2017).

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Pingali, P. Westernization of Asian diets and the transformation of food systems: implications for research and policy. Food Policy 32, 281–298 (2007).

    Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Pinstrup-Andersen, P., Pandya-Lorch, R. & Rosegrant, M. W. The World Food Situation: Recent Developments, Emerging Issues and Long-Term Prospects (The International Food Policy Research Institute, 1997).

  4. 4.

    Smith, M. R., Micha, R., Golden, C. D., Mozaffarian, D. & Myers, S. S. Global expanded nutrient supply (GENuS) model: a new method for estimating the global dietary supply of nutrients. PLoS ONE 11, e0146976 (2016).

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Micha, R. et al. Global, regional and national consumption of major food groups in 1990 and 2010: a systematic analysis including 266 country-specific nutrition surveys worldwide. Br. Med. J. Open 5, e008705 (2015).

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Khatibzadeh, S. et al. A global database of food and nutrient consumption. Bull. World Health Organ. 94, 931 (2016).

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Schmidhuber, J. et al. The Global Nutrient Database: availability of macronutrients and micronutrients in 195 countries from 1980 to 2013. Lancet Planet. Health 2, e353–e368 (2018).

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Popkin, B. M. Urbanization, lifestyle changes and the nutrition transition. World Dev. 27, 1905–1916 (1999).

    Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Kearney, J. Food consumption trends and drivers. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 365, 2793–2807 (2010).

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Wolmarans, P. Background paper on global trends in food production, intake and composition. Ann. Nutr. Metab. 55, 244–272 (2009).

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Khoury, C. K. et al. Increasing homogeneity in global food supplies and the implications for food security. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 111, 4001–4006 (2014).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Remans, R., Wood, S. A., Saha, N., Anderman, T. L. & DeFries, R. S. Measuring nutritional diversity of national food supplies. Global Food Secur. 3, 174–182 (2014).

    Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Beal, T., Massiot, E., Arsenault, J. E., Smith, M. R. & Hijmans, R. J. Global trends in dietary micronutrient supplies and estimated prevalence of inadequate intakes. PLoS ONE 12, e0175554 (2017).

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Wood, S. A., Smith, M. R., Fanzo, J., Remans, R. & DeFries, R. S. Trade and the equitability of global food nutrient distribution. Nat. Sustain. 1, 34–37 (2018).

    Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    da Silva, R. et al. Worldwide variation of adherence to the Mediterranean diet, in 1961–1965 and 2000–2003. Public Health Nutr. 12, 1676–1684 (2009).

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Bonhommeau, S. et al. Eating up the world’s food web and the human trophic level. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 110, 20617–20620 (2013).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Hu, F. B. et al. Prospective study of major dietary patterns and risk of coronary heart disease in men. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 72, 912–921 (2000).

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Ioannidis, J. P. A. The challenge of reforming nutritional epidemiologic research. J. Am. Med. Assoc. 320, 969–970 (2018).

    Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Cordain, L. et al. Origins and evolution of the Western diet: health implications for the 21st century. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 81, 341–354 (2005).

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Pomerleau, J., Lock, K. & McKee, M. Discrepancies between ecological and individual data on fruit and vegetable consumption in fifteen countries. Br. J. Nutr. 89, 827–834 (2003).

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Hall, K. et al. Ultra-processed diets cause excess calorie intake and weight gain: an inpatient randomized controlled trial of ad libitum food intake. Cell Metab. 30, 67–77 (2019).

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    NCD Risk Factor Collaboration. Trends in adult body-mass index in 200 countries from 1975 to 2014: a pooled analysis of 1698 population-based measurement studies with 19.2 million participants. Lancet 387, 1377–1396 (2016).

    Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    NCD Risk Factor Collaboration. Worldwide trends in body-mass index, underweight, overweight, and obesity from 1975 to 2016: a pooled analysis of 2416 population-based measurement studies in 128.9 million children, adolescents, and adults. Lancet 390, 2627–2642 (2017).

    Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    NCD Risk Factor Collaboration. Worldwide trends in diabetes since 1980: a pooled analysis of 751 population-based studies with 4.4 million participants. Lancet 387, 1513–1530 (2016).

    Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    NCD Risk Factor Collaboration. Rising rural body-mass index is the main driver of the global obesity epidemic in adults. Nature 569, 260–264 (2019).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Food Balance Sheets: A Handbook (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2001).

  27. 27.

    NCD Risk Factor Collaboration. A century of trends in adult human height. eLife 5, e13410 (2016).

    Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Stevens, G. A. et al. Global, regional, and national trends in haemoglobin concentration and prevalence of total and severe anaemia in children and pregnant and non-pregnant women for 1995-2011: a systematic analysis of population-representative data. Lancet Global Health 1, e16–e25 (2013).

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Stevens, G. A. et al. Trends and mortality effects of vitamin A deficiency in children in 138 low-income and middle-income countries between 1991 and 2013: a pooled analysis of population-based surveys. Lancet Global Health 3, e528–e536 (2015).

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Stevens, G. A. et al. Trends in mild, moderate, and severe stunting and underweight, and progress towards MDG 1 in 141 developing countries: a systematic analysis of population representative data. Lancet 380, 824–834 (2012).

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Willett, W. et al. Food in the Anthropocene: the EAT-Lancet Commission on healthy diets from sustainable food systems. Lancet 393, 447–492 (2019).

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Ramankutty, N., Evan, T. A., Monfreda, C. & Foley, J. A. Farming the planet: 1. Geographic distribution of global agricultural lands in the year 2000. Global Biogeochem. Cy. 22, GB1003 (2008).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Monfreda, C, Ramankutty, N. & Foley, J. A. Farming the planet: 2. Geographic distribution of crop areas, yields, physiological types, and net primary production in the year 2000. Global Biogeochem. Cy. 22, GB1022 (2008).

    ADS  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Foley, J. A. et al. Global consequences of land use. Science 309, 570–574 (2005).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Vörösmarty, C. J., Green, P., Salisbury, J. & Lammers, R. B. Global water resources: vulnerability from climate change and population growth. Science 289, 284–288 (2000).

    ADS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Kalnay, E. & Cai, M. Impact of urbanization and land-use change on climate. Nature 423, 528–531 (2003).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Matson, P. A., Parton, W. J., Power, A. & Swift, M. Agricultural intensification and ecosystem properties. Science 277, 504–509 (1997).

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  38. 38.

    Vitousek, P. M. et al. Human alteration of the global nitrogen cycle: sources and consequences. Ecol. Appl. 7, 737–750 (1997).

    Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    Tilman, D. & Clark, M. Global diets link environmental sustainability and human health. Nature 515, 518–522 (2014).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Foley, J. A. et al. Solutions for a cultivated planet. Nature 478, 337–342 (2011).

    ADS  CAS  Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Zhang, Q. et al. Transboundary health impacts of transported global air pollution and international trade. Nature 543, 705–709 (2017).

    ADS  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  42. 42.

    Rue, H., Martino, S. & Chopin, N. Approximate Bayesian inference for latent Gaussian models by using integrated nested Laplace approximations. J. R. Stat. Soc. B 71, 319–392 (2009).

    MathSciNet  MATH  Google Scholar 

  43. 43.

    Pearson, K. LIII. On lines and planes of closest fit to systems of points in space. Lond. Edinb. Dublin Phil. Mag. J. Sci. 2, 559–572 (1901).

    MATH  Google Scholar 

  44. 44.

    Kaiser, H. F. The varimax criterion for analytic rotation in factor analysis. Psychometrika 23, 187–200 (1958).

    MATH  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

This study was funded by the Wellcome Trust Biomedical Resource & Multi-User Equipment Programme (101506/Z/13/Z). J.B. was supported by a Royal Society Research grant (RS/R1/180086). R.G. and A.D.D. were supported by Wellcome Trust grants 205200/Z/16/Z and 210794/Z/18/Z. M.D.C. was supported by an Academy of Medical Sciences Springboard Award (HOP001/1029).

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

M.E. and G.D. developed the study concept. J.B., G.M.S. and J.K.L. obtained the data, conducted the analyses and prepared the results. R.G., G.A.S., F.F., J.E.B., M.D.C. and A.D.D. contributed to the data, analyses and interpretation. J.B. and M.E. wrote the first draft of the paper with input from the other authors.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to James Bentham.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

M.E. received personal fees from Prudential, Scor and Third Bridge, and a charitable grant from the AstraZeneca Young Health Programme, outside the submitted work. The other authors declare no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Supplementary information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Bentham, J., Singh, G.M., Danaei, G. et al. Multidimensional characterization of global food supply from 1961 to 2013. Nat Food 1, 70–75 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-019-0012-2

Download citation

Further reading

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing