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Publication date: 
August 3, 2018

Abstract

Few data are available on the supply and consumption of nutrients at the country level. To address this data gap, we aimed to create a database that provides information on availability (i.e., supply) of 156 nutrients across 195 countries and territories from 1980 to 2013.

Methods

We matched 394 food and agricultural commodities from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Supply and Utilization Accounts (SUAs) to food items in the in the United States Department of Agriculture Food Composition Database and obtained data on nutrient composition of the SUAs’ food items. Then, after adjusting for inedible portion of each food item, we added the contributions of individual food items to the availability of each nutrient and estimated the national availability of macronutrients and micronutrients in each year. We validated our estimates by comparing our results with those of national nutrition surveys from three countries (the USA, South Korea, and Ecuador). Using dietary consumption data from the Global Burden of Disease study and two popular machine learning algorithms (Random Forest and XGBoost [extreme gradient boosting]), we developed predictive models to estimate the consumption of each nutrient based on their national availability.

Findings

Globally, 2,710 kcal (95% UI 2,660–2,770) were available per person per day in 2013. Carbohydrates were the major contributor to energy availability (70.5%), followed by fats (17.4%), and protein (10.5%). The energy availability and the contribution of macronutrients to total energy widely varied across levels of development. Countries at the higher level of development (high Socio-demographic Index countries) had more energy available per person per day (3,270 kcal, 3,220–3,310); greater contributions from fats (26.0%) and proteins (11.9%) to total energy availability; and lower contributions from carbohydrate (54.8%). During 1980–2013, energy availability and the contributions of protein and fats to energy availability have increased globally and across levels of development, while the contribution of carbohydrates to total energy availability has decreased. The supply of the micronutrients has also increased during the same period globally and across levels of development. Our validation analysis showed that, after accounting for waste at the retail and household level, our estimates of macronutrient availability were very close to the consumption data in nationally representative surveys. Our machine-learning models closely predicted the observed intake of nutrients with the out-of-sample correlation of greater than 0.8 between predicted and observed intake for the nutrients included in the analysis.

Interpretation

Our global nutrient database provides a picture of the supply of various nutrients at the country level and can be useful to assess the performance of national food systems in addressing the nutritional needs of their population.

Citation: 

Schmidhuber J, Sur P, Fay K, Huntley B, Salama J, Lee A, Cornaby L, Horino M, Murray C, Afshin A. The Global Nutrient Database: availability of macronutrients and micronutrients in 195 countries from 1980 to 2013. The Lancet Planetary Health. 3 August 2018. doi: 10.1016/S2542-5196(18)30170-0.