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Abstract

The member countries of the World Health Organization (WHO) have recently endorsed its Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health in an effort to combat the growing burden of non-communicable diseases. We assess the potential consumption impacts of these norms in the United States using a mathematical programming approach. We find that adherence to the WHO norms would involve significant changes in diets, with large reductions in the consumption of fats and oils accompanying large rises in the consumption of fruits, vegetables and cereals. Further, intakes of sugar would have to shrink considerably to comply with the WHO norms. By focusing on sub-populations within the country, we find that education is the only socio-demographic variable exerting a consistent and significant influence on the required dietary adjustments. Income, among other variables, has little effect on required adjustment levels. This implies that the least educated, not necessarily the poorest, would have to bear the highest burden of adjustment; and that nutritional policy based on information provision and labelling might prove difficult while policy based on fiscal measures may not be as skewed against the poor as popularly believed.

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