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Diet, mortality and life expectancy A cross national analysis


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.

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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.

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Rao, V. Diet, mortality and life expectancy A cross national analysis. J Popul Econ 1, 225–233 (1989).

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