Background: A standardized global nutritional index (GNI) would provide a single statistic for each country according to its overall level of nutrition, which could then guide national policies.
Objectives and methods: We have developed a GNI modeled on the human development index (HDI), based on three indicators of nutritional status: deficits, excess, and food security. Calculations were made within four groups of countries (GNI) (32 developed countries, 26 countries in transition, 64 low-mortality developing countries, and 70 high-mortality developing countries) as well as between them-the Global Nutrition Index World wide (GNIg).
Results: Complete data were available for 192 countries. The ranking of the highest and lowest countries in the four groups (with their GNIg values) is as follows: developed countries--Japan 1 (0.989), United States 99 (0.806); countries in transition--Estonia 10 (0.943), Tajikistan 173 (0.629); low-mortality developing countries--Republic of Korea 12 (0.939), Nauru 185 (0.565); high-mortality developing countries--Algeria 47 (0.876), Sierra Leone 192 (0.420). A "double burden," in which nutrient deficits and excesses coexist in the same country, was seen in Mauritania (rank 139), South Africa (rank 146), Samoa (rank 157), Lesotho (rank 160), and Fiji (rank 169). The correlation between GNIg and HDI was intermediate (0.74, 55% of variance explained), demonstrating that good nutrition and development are not necessarily synonymous. Countries may be developed yet have a low GNIg (e.g., Australia, Canada, and the United States) and vice versa (e.g., Indonesia and China).
Conclusions: Since nutrition is fundamental to a nation's health and productivity, the GNI and GNIg should be used alongside the HDI to obtain an optimal index of a country's overall well-being.