The end result is major shifts in diet patterns, characterised by increased total energy intake. While the latter includes increased intake of animal source foods and vegetable oils, as well as a small increase in global fruit and vegetable intake, most of the foods that people are eating more of are cereal-based. The low production of pulses can be considered a rough indicator for all kinds of non-staple foods including fruits and vegetables, none of which have increased at anywhere near the rate of cereals, namely because agricultural research and other types of investment during this period was strongly biased towards cereal production.
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For example, in Bangladesh, prices for cereals, non-cereal plant foods and animal source foods were roughly equal in By , cereal prices had decreased substantially while prices for non-staple foods had increased. The end result, especially for poorer families, was an increase in the percentage share of household food expenditures on non-staple foods, with a concomitant decrease in actual intake of those foods. The implication is that households will spend more of the food budget on non-staple foods, but these foods comprise only a modicum of total energy intake.
However in the last decade, cereal prices have themselves begun to rise, increasing food budget expenditures on staples at the expense of whatever small amounts of higher nutrient foods were being consumed. These trends are in line with conventional food security paradigms which put the focus squarely on physical food availability at a national or sub-national level, usually assessed in terms of net food production and cereal stock levels. While national food availability is an obvious pre-requisite for total food security, it is not the whole story, as it does not necessarily reflect what foods households are growing and able to afford, let alone what individuals are actually eating.
Tackling malnutrition in all its forms requires revision of conventional food security paradigms to better include these dimensions. Doing so requires revisiting the cereal-centric support policies that have characterised the last three decades of agricultural policy in favour of an investment agenda that promotes production diversity.
Figure 1 shows just how far we have to go in terms of achieving this goal. To date, there are over , globally identified, edible plant species; historically, 7, of these have been used for food by humans. A stronger, more explicit focus on diet diversity is now increasingly recognised as an important strategy in achieving these goals.
Diet Quality : An Evidence-Based Approach, Volume 2
Indicators of diet diversity are typically constructed from scores for individual food consumption which are computed based on information on the number of different food groups from which the individual consumed over a recent short period of time. Diet diversity scores have been repeatedly validated as having a robust and consistent positive statistical association with adequacy in individual micronutrient consumption. In other words, the higher the diet diversity score for an individual, the more likely that individual has a diet which meets his or her vitamin and mineral requirements.
Associations have also been reported between diet diversity and other outcomes, including cognitive function, all-cause mortality in the elderly 10 11 and wasting in children. Moreover, all national food-based dietary guidelines include this dimension. In July , FAO and partners announced a new development in diet diversity scores: consensus on a threshold metric to classify women as having high or low diet diversity.
Improving maternal, newborn, infant and young child health and nutrition.
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Diet Quality: An Evidence-Based Approach, Volume 2
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