Nutrition-related health patterns in the Middle East

Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2003;12(3):337-43.


Nutritionally-related health patterns in the Middle East have changed significantly during the last two decades. The main forces that have contributed to these changes are the rapid changes in the demographic characteristics of the region, speedy urbanization, and social development in the absence of steady and significant economic growth. Within these changes, the Middle East has the highest dietary energy surplus of the developing countries. The population in the region has a low poverty prevalence, at 4%. The region's child malnutrition rate is 19%, suggesting that nutrition insecurity remains a problem due mainly to poor health care and not due to inadequate dietary energy supply or poverty. The one extreme country, Afghanistan, has an extremely high dietary energy deficit of 490 kilocalories and a 40% malnutrition rate. Iran and Egypt have relatively high child malnutrition rates of 39 and 16% respectively, but belong to the dietary energy surplus group. Morocco and the United Emirates have the lowest child malnutrition rates of 6 and 8% respectively. In the Middle East, as in other parts of the world, large shifts have occurred in dietary and physical activity patterns. These changes are reflected in nutritional and health outcomes. Rising obesity rates and high levels of chronic and degenerative diseases are observed. These pressing factors that include the nature and changes in the food consumption pattern, globalization of food supply, and the inequity in health care will be discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Demography
  • Developing Countries
  • Diet / trends*
  • Economics
  • Energy Intake
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Food Supply
  • Food, Organic
  • Humans
  • Life Expectancy
  • Malnutrition / epidemiology*
  • Middle East / epidemiology
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Quality of Health Care