To raise awareness among policymakers and health practitioners about unhealthy diets, this document examines dietary patterns in selected Latin American countries using household surveys. The analysis shows that a large percentage of households in the countries examined have inadequate diets. Not only are calorie intakes higher than recommended to maintain a healthy weight, but the diets are also rich in fats, particularly saturated fats, sugars and sodium, and poor in fruits and vegetables. These unhealthy diets are present in both rural and urban areas and in households at different income levels. These dietary patterns are likely to increase the risks for developing non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, certain types of cancer, and diabetes mellitus. These diseases are increasingly representing the main causes of death and disability in Latin America, and thus there is an urgent need to increase efforts to promote healthy diets. There are cost-effective interventions that have proven to improve diets, particularly to reduce sodium and trans fat intake, and there are promising examples in the region of the implementation of some of these cost-effective interventions. In addition, given the harmful effects of these dietary patterns, it is important to monitor the prevalence of unhealthy diets across different population groups as well as the intermediate risks factors linked to these diets, such as overweight and obesity, high blood pressure, and high fasting glucose in the blood. This will require better information than what is currently available and information that is comparable across time.


“Bonilla-Chacín, María Eugenia; Marcano Vázquez, Luis T.; Sierra, Ricardo; Aldana, Úrsula. 2013. Dietary Patterns and Non-communicable Diseases in Selected Latin American Countries. World Bank, Washington, DC. © World Bank. License: CC BY 3.0 Unported.”