Why Developing Countries Have Poor Food Choices.
Yo, reader! Guess who’s back. . .
I heard Medium needed elite content in the form of small chunks, or “nano-stories”.
Malnutrition 101 🍖
Poor diet & malnutrition is one of the world’s leading factors to death: it accounts for 1 in 5 deaths.
In developing countries, individuals are not making more than $4800 per year per capita. In this case, they can’t afford a diversity of food because of the high prices of basic nutritious foods like eggs, fish, fruits, and vegetables.
Ironically, in developed countries, unhealthy foods like soda are only 1.9 times as expensive as essential food calories (and you don’t need to waste time preparing your food).
This occurrence is known as the Nutritional Pattern Hypothesis. In a nutshell, as countries develop, diets will diversify into having more nutritious foods (however, this process can occur slowly) while simultaneously diversifying towards unhealthy foods like sodas, burgers, etc.
Let’s take a look at how much it would cost a person from Niger if they wanted to buy some eggs. Hold up! Egg calories in Niger are 23.3 times as expensive as calories from staple foods! Dairy products are the most expensive for developing countries. So if you think planting a bunch of fruit/carrots will work, you have to bring the price down A LOT. How much?
There are 3 types of diets: “Energy Sufficient Diet”, “Nutrient Adequate Diet”, and “Healthy Diet”. Each number represents in USD how much will a person have to pay for the diet according to their region & country income group. $1.90 per person per day is the international poverty line.
A diet is unaffordable for the bottom billion (most poor) once the price of the food exceeds $1.20 per person per day.
Another reason why such diets are so poor in nutritional benefits is the food themselves. A huge culprit is Sugar. Sugar is very dense in the basic calories needed for survival and adequate food energy; green leafy vegetables are rich in micronutrients but don’t offer much energy, so they’re expensive in caloric terms. Hence the name “Energy-Sufficient Diet”.
“Okay, so why can’t Niger and other developing countries just buy eggs and protein from other countries? Import it!”
Certain types of food can go bad faster than others. Eggs will expire in 4–5 weeks (assuming you’re refrigerating them). Milk isn’t a good option for importing either. But other types of animal proteins like beans, fish, frozen meat, etc. are perfectly fine for farther destinations.
Got it, Carlos. But what would happen if we could give people who had a “Energy-Sufficient Diet” a “Healthy Diet”?
A case study from Eastern Guatemala between 1969–1977 gave two nutritional supplements to pre-school children in 4 villages. Two villages received a high-protein-energy drink called Atole and the other two villages received a low-energy drink without a protein called Fresco. The researchers returned to locate the now full-grown adults in 2004 to ask them about their performance, income, job, etc.
After taking a reading, vocabulary, and problem-solving tests, height & weight checks, they concluded that for both men and women, access to atole significantly raised scores on reading, vocabulary tests, and on tests of problem-solving ability more than twenty-five years after the intervention had concluded. For men, access to atole increased wages by more than 40 percent.
Closing Thoughts 💭
If prices and the lack of approx. $5000 per person per year is what’s causing the lack of diversity of healthy foods across developing countries, we can have an overview of some solutions that can mitigate and/or eliminate micronutrient deficiency from a location.
See you soon on current solutions to micronutrient deficiency!
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