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Obes Rev. 2014 Jan;15 Suppl 1:8-15. doi: 10.1111/obr.12122.

China in the period of transition from scarcity and extensive undernutrition to emerging nutrition-related non-communicable diseases, 1949-1992.

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Department of Nutrition, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA.


This study uses unique official data to document nutritional changes in the 1949-1992 period. In 1949, widespread famine, high mortality and low life expectancy dominated. Economic progress was uneven; however, the longer term food supply changed greatly, and hunger was conquered. Diet composition shifted greatly over this period. Cereal consumption, already high, increased from 541.2 g d(-1) (70.0% coarse grains) in 1952 to 645.9 g d(-1) (15.9% coarse grains) in 1992. Consumption of animal-source foods, half of which were pork and pork products, tripled from 30.0 to 103.0 g d(-1). The proportion of energy intake from fat tripled from 7.6% to 22.5%, and that from carbohydrates decreased from 83.0% to 65.8% over the same period. Physical activity was high in all domains, but shifts were beginning to occur (e.g. the initial mechanization of work and the expansion of biking). Nutritional improvement was uneven, including increased undernutrition in the 1959-1962 period and a remarkable rebound and continued improvement thereafter. Overweight emerged only after 1982. Shifts in diet, activity and body composition in 1949-1992 set the stage for major shifts in nutrition in the subsequent decades.


Food insecurity; malnutrition; overweight; physical activity

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