Dietary intake and rural-urban migration in India: a cross-sectional study

PLoS One. 2011;6(6):e14822. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0014822. Epub 2011 Jun 22.


Background: Migration from rural areas of India contributes to urbanisation and lifestyle change, and dietary changes may increase the risk of obesity and chronic diseases. We tested the hypothesis that rural-to-urban migrants have different macronutrient and food group intake to rural non-migrants, and that migrants have a diet more similar to urban non-migrants.

Methods and findings: The diets of migrants of rural origin, their rural dwelling sibs, and those of urban origin together with their urban dwelling sibs were assessed by an interviewer-administered semi-quantitative food frequency questionnaire. A total of 6,509 participants were included. Median energy intake in the rural, migrant and urban groups was 2731, 3078, and 3224 kcal respectively for men, and 2153, 2504, and 2644 kcal for women (p<0.001). A similar trend was seen for overall intake of fat, protein and carbohydrates (p<0.001), though differences in the proportion of energy from these nutrients were <2%. Migrant and urban participants reported up to 80% higher fruit and vegetable intake than rural participants (p<0.001), and up to 35% higher sugar intake (p<0.001). Meat and dairy intake were higher in migrant and urban participants than rural participants (p<0.001), but varied by region. Sibling-pair analyses confirmed these results. There was no evidence of associations with time in urban area.

Conclusions: Rural to urban migration appears to be associated with both positive (higher fruit and vegetables intake) and negative (higher energy and fat intake) dietary changes. These changes may be of relevance to cardiovascular health and warrant public health interventions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Demography
  • Diet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Diet Surveys / statistics & numerical data*
  • Energy Intake / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Female
  • Humans
  • India
  • Male
  • Population Dynamics / statistics & numerical data*