Background While income and prices are key drivers of dietary choices, how their influence varies by food category, nation, and demographics is not well established. Based on intake data for 164 countries and 11 food categories, we examined how income and food prices relate to food intake globally, including by world region, age, and sex.
Methods We used 2010 intake data from the Global Dietary Database, the first database of consumption estimates for major food categories by country, age, and sex. We combined these data with national per capita GDP and food price data. We estimated intake responsiveness to income and prices for each food category, accounting for differences by national income, world region, age, and sex.
Results We identified several differences in intake responsiveness. For example, rising income was estimated to increase milk intake most strongly in Sub-Saharan Africa and fruit intake most strongly among older women globally. Comparing our intake results to previous findings based on expenditure data, we found more goods that exhibited declining intake in response to rising incomes, fewer significant relationships for a number of food categories, particularly for higher income regions, and whereas in prior studies, elasticities mostly decrease with national income, we identified food categories where this was not the case.
Conclusion The results of this study show heterogeneous associations among income, prices, and food intakes. Policymakers should consider the price and income elasticities of certain foods, as well as the role of demographics within and across countries, as they address global nutrition and health challenges.