Skip to main content

The nutrition transition: worldwide obesity dynamics and their determinants


Popkin, Barry M. & Gordon-Larsen, Penny (2004). The nutrition transition: worldwide obesity dynamics and their determinants. International Journal of Obesity, 28, S2-S9.


OBJECTIVE: This paper explores the major changes in diet and physical activity patterns around the world and focuses on shifts in obesity.

DESIGN: Review of results focusing on large-scale surveys and nationally representative studies of diet, activity, and obesity among adults and children.

SUBJECTS: Youth and adults from a range of countries around the world.

MEASUREMENTS: The International Obesity Task Force guidelines for defining overweight and obesity are used for youth and the body mass index greater than or equal to25 kg/m2 and 30 cutoffs are used, respectively, for adults.

RESULTS: The nutrition transition patterns are examined from the time period termed the receding famine pattern to one dominated by nutrition-related noncommunicable diseases (NR-NCDs). The speed of dietary and activity pattern shifts is great, particularly in the developing world, resulting in major shifts in obesity on a worldwide basis. Data limitations force us to examine data on obesity trends in adults to provide a broader sense of changes in obesity over time, and then to examine the relatively fewer studies on youth. Specifically, this work provides a sense of change both in the United States, Europe, and the lower- and middle-income countries of Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America.

CONCLUSION: The paper shows that changes are occurring at great speed and at earlier stages of the economic and social development of each country. The burden of obesity is shifting towards the poor.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

International Journal of Obesity


Popkin, Barry M.
Gordon-Larsen, Penny