National Geography has made this amazing website What the World Eats. It uses colorful wheels to show what people eats everyday in 22 different countries. The size of the wheel is proportional to the daily total calorie intake. The colors represent different types of food consumed including grain, meat, dairy&eggs, produce, sugar&fat and others. When you click on the forward arrow below the wheel, it will show you the changes of this wheel from 1961 to 2011, which is very interesting.
By playing with these graphs, you can get remarkable insights on diet patterns around the world and how it evolves in the past 50 years. These two color wheels are taken from the website. They showed the source of world daily calories intake in 1961 and 2011. By comparing them, we can make the following conclusions:
- From 1961 to 2011, world daily calories increased from 2194 cal to 2870 cal. 2870 cal is far exceeding the recommended daily calorie intake (2500 cal for man and 2000 cal for woman), partly explains the increasing trend of obesity globally.
- The 676 cal extra calories comes from mainly meat (132 cal to 272 cal) , sugar&fat (345 cal to 570 cal), grain (1085 cal to 1296 cal).
- There is not much changes in the composition of the food wheel in terms of percentage.
Thus extra calories from meat, sugar&fat and grain most likely contributed to the global obesity epidemic.
Now let’s compare USA, China and India from year 2011, the three countries with the highest number of obese people in the world. Though the prevalence of obesity in the USA is over 30%, while that in China and India is lower than 5%.
There are several amazingly interesting discoveries to be made:
- The US food wheel is almost 50% larger than the Indian wheel. US daily calories is 3641 cal, about 1.5 times of India (2458 cal).
- Sugar&fat takes up much larger potion in the US wheel, as high as 37%, while in China it is only 11%.
- % of grain is surprisingly low in the US (22%), while it is 57% in China and as high as 57% in India.
- % of meat is only 1% in India due to religious vegetarianism and scarcity of food in rural area.
We won’t be able to make any conclusion on the causes of obesity from this comparison. What we can see here is the distinct difference between American diet and Asian diet. Americans are consuming more sugar, fat, dairy and eggs, but less grain. And the Americans eat A LOT. Every day, people are eating 50% more than they should all over the country! Can you imagine? Incredible indeed.