Skip to main content

Diet, mortality and life expectancy A cross national analysis

Abstract

There are numerous reasons why mortality and life expectancy vary between countries. Epidemiological studies seem to indicate that dictary variations may be among them. A sample of 51 countries studied with data from the International Comparisons Project and other sources, shows that after controlling for nutrient intake, consumption of medical goods and services, income distribution, weather, and literacy, countries with more meat and poultry in their diet have lower life expectancies after age five. The results for infant mortality and child death between one and five indicate that a more animal-intensive diet may be actually be beneficial, especially if fish consumption is increased and meat and poultry consumption reduced.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Behrman JR, Deolalikar AD (1988) Health and nutrition. In: Chenery H, Srinivasan TN (eds) Handbook of development economics. North Holland, Amsterdam, pp 631–711

    Google Scholar 

  • Burr ML, Sweetnam PM (1982) Vegetarianism, dietary fibre and mortality. Am J Clin Nutr 36:873–877

    Google Scholar 

  • Caldwell JC (1986) Routes to low mortality in poor countries. Popul Dev Rev 12:171–220

    Google Scholar 

  • Colditz GA, Branch LG, Lipnick RJ, et al. (1985) Increased green and yellow vegetable intake and lowered cancer deaths in an elderly population. Am J Clin Nutr 41:32–36

    Google Scholar 

  • DeBakey ME, Gotto AM, Scott LW, Forelit JP (1986) Diet, nutrition and heart disease. J Am Diet Assoc 86:729–731

    Google Scholar 

  • Dwyer JT, Andrew EA, Bekey C, Valadian I, Reed RB (1983) Growth in “new” vegetarian pre-school children using the Jenss-Bayley curve fitting technique. Am J Clin Nutr 37:815–827

    Google Scholar 

  • FAO (1971) FAO Production yearbook, vol 35. FAO Statistics Series No. 40, Rome

  • Flegg AT (1982) Inequality of income, illiteracy and medical care as determinants of infant mortality in underdeveloped countries. Popul Stud 36:441–458

    Google Scholar 

  • Gwatkin DR (1980) Indicators of change in developing country mortality trends: The end of an era? Popul Dev Rev 6

  • Hobcraft JN, McDonald JW, Rutstein SO (1984) Socio-economic factors in infant and child mortality: A cross-national comparison. Popul Stud 38:193–223

    Google Scholar 

  • Jain S (1975) Size distribution of income: A compilation of data. World Bank, Washington, DC

    Google Scholar 

  • Kahn HA, Phillips RL, Snowdon DA, Choi W (1984) Association between reported diet and all cause mortality: Twenty-one year follow up on 27530 adult Seventh-Day Adventists. Am J Epidemol 119:775–787

    Google Scholar 

  • Keys A, Aravanis C, Van Buchem FSP, et al. (1981) The diet and all causes death rate in the seven countries study. Lancet 2:58–61

    Google Scholar 

  • Kolonel LN, et al. (1983) Role of diet in cancer incidence in Hawaii. Cancer Res (Suppl) 43:2397s–2402s

    Google Scholar 

  • Kravis I, Heston A, Summers R (1982) World product and income. International comparison of real gross product. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore

    Google Scholar 

  • Lecaillon J, Paukert F, Morrison C, Germidis D (1984) Income distribution and economic development. International Labor Office, Geneva

    Google Scholar 

  • Pampel FC, Pillai VK (1986) Patterns and determinants of infant mortality in developed nations, 1950–1980. Demography 23:525–541

    Google Scholar 

  • Pan American Airways (1970) New horizons world guide

  • Pediatric Nutrition Handbook (1985) American Academy of Pediatrics

  • Preston SH (1976) Mortality patterns in national populations. Academic Press, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Preston SH (1980) Causes and consequences of mortality declines in less developed countries during the twenthieth century. In: Easterlin R (ed) Population and economic change in developing countries. NBER, New York, pp 289–360

    Google Scholar 

  • Primrose T, Higgins A (1971) A study in human antepartum nutrition. J Reproduct Med 7

  • Saxon G (1983) Results of case control studies of diet and cancer in Buffalo, New York. Cancer Res (Suppl) 43:2409s–2413s

  • Snowdon DA, Phillips RL (1985) Does a vegetarian diet reduce the occurrence of diabetes. Am J Public Health 507–512

  • Verlangieri AJ, Kapeghan JL, Dean S, Bush M (1986) Fruit and vegetable consumption and cardiovascular mortality. Med Hypothesis 16:7–15

    Google Scholar 

  • World Development Report (1981, 1982, 1983, 1987). World Bank, Washington, DC

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Additional information

I thank Jere Behrman, David Crawford, Anil Deolalikar, the Managing Editor, two anonymous referees, and especially Samuel Preston for valuable comments, and Alan Heston and Robert Summers for being generous with their time and their data. Financial support was provided by a Compton Foundation Fellowship. All errors remain my responsibility.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Rao, V. Diet, mortality and life expectancy A cross national analysis. J Popul Econ 1, 225–233 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00161480

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00161480

Keywords

  • Nutrient Intake
  • Life Expectancy
  • Epidemiological Study
  • Infant Mortality
  • Income Distribution