Transition in dietary quality: Evidence from India

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Article (peer-reviewed)

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Despite significant economic growth over the past decades, poor nutritional status in India is a serious concern. The social transformation led by growth in income influences both the composition of food and the quality of diet consumed. Against this backdrop of changing lifestyles and the rise in obesity and non-communicable diseases, in this study, we examined changes in diet quality and the critical socio-economic correlates of this quality from 1983 to 2012 using three rounds of nationally representative surveys providing information on food consumption for more than 100 000 households in each round. We constructed diet quality indices at the household level using deficient and excess intake of macro and micronutrients compared with the recommended daily allowances (RDA) for different age-sex groups of the Indian population. We found that in relation to the RDA, fat consumption increased over time while protein and energy consumption decreased. The average diet quality index improved in the rural sector while it deteriorated in the urban sector. Caste and religion are significant correlates of the diet quality index. The deficiency index of nutrients decreased for poor households as they get richer; however, it increased with affluence level for the non-poor. It is suggested that the Indian Government may play a more proactive role in implementing coherent national policies in trade, food and agriculture to protect public health by promoting the demand for a healthy diet.