Dietary trends in the Middle East and North Africa: an ecological study (1961 to 2007)

Public Health Nutr. 2012 Oct;15(10):1835-44. doi: 10.1017/S1368980011003673. Epub 2012 Feb 9.


Objective: Middle Eastern and North African countries are undergoing nutrition transition, a transition which is associated with an increased burden of non-communicable diseases. This necessitates the evaluation of dietary patterns in these regions. The present study aimed to assess changes in dietary patterns in Middle Eastern and North African countries between 1961 and 2007.

Design: Availability of energy and fifteen main food items during 1961-2007 was examined using FAO food balance sheets from the FAOSTAT database.

Setting: Fifteen countries including nine in the Middle East and six in North Africa were selected and the average availability of total energy and different food items in these regions were compared.

Results: Over the 47 years studied, energy and food availability (apart from animal fats and alcoholic beverages) has increased in the Middle East and North Africa. In both regions the proportion of energy derived from meat and vegetable oils has increased significantly while that from cereals decreased significantly. In addition, the proportion of energy from milk and dairy products and vegetables has shown an ascending trend in North Africa while the proportion of energy from fruits has shown a descending trend in the Middle East.

Conclusions: The study results reveal an unfavourable trend towards a Westernized diet in the Middle East and, to a certain extent, in North Africa. Tailored nutritional education encouraging healthy eating for prevention of the burden of chronic diseases in these countries seems essential.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Africa, Northern / epidemiology
  • Alcoholic Beverages / statistics & numerical data
  • Chronic Disease / epidemiology
  • Chronic Disease / prevention & control
  • Cost of Illness
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Diet / trends*
  • Dietary Fats / administration & dosage
  • Energy Intake / physiology*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Food Supply / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Transition*
  • Humans
  • Middle East / epidemiology
  • Nutrition Policy*
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / prevention & control
  • Public Health


  • Dietary Fats