Intuitive eating and the nutrition transition in Asia

Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2004;13(2):194-203.


Current models of the nutrition transition focus on demographic changes and economic development. A further influence may be the adoption of western-based perceptions of beauty that lead to potentially harmful eating behaviours which contribute to overweight, obesity, and eating disorders. This paper proposes a comprehensive model of the nutrition transition that includes western influences on perceived attractiveness and subsequent eating styles. An exploratory test of this model for Asian countries explores differences in intuitive eating as a function of economic development and the adoption of western standards of beauty. The intuitive eating scale (IES), a measure of food consumption that is primarily characterized by the satisfaction of physical hunger, was used to evaluate agreement with intuitive eating principles in the US and four Asian countries (Japan, Thailand, the Philippines, and China). Although intuitive eating scores in the US and Thailand failed to follow predicted patterns on two of the four IES subscales, scores for the other two IES subscales and the total IES score followed predicted patterns for Asian countries. Intuitive eating appears to be a valid, measurable concept that is correlated with economic development and levels of western influence in Asian countries. The tentative findings of this exploratory study support further evaluation of cultural influences as an important component of the nutrition transition.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asia / epidemiology
  • Body Constitution
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Diet / adverse effects*
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Economics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Students / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology