Human history is characterized by a series of changes in the diet and nutritional status. This chapter explores the dietary and overall nutritional change from a broad historical perspective. The concept of transitions or movement from one state or condition to another is used to capture the dynamic nature of diet. It is important to understand these broad changes in dietary patterns and the factors considered as determinants or important correlates of the patterns of dietary change. The ultimate goal is to understand the various factors that cause or are associated with these dietary changes so that one can better understand how to promote dietary change systematically. The transitions that have occurred in nutrition are avoidable and an understanding of the patterns and sources of change will serve as a basis for future interventions at the population level to lead to more healthful transitions. The theory of the nutrition transition posits that these changes or stages relate to the complex interplay of changes in patterns of agricultural, health, and socioeconomic factors, among others. It is relatively easy to present a case that to understand the nutrition transition one requires a broad-based examination of the patterns and determinants of dietary change. One needs to be concerned with food supply to agricultural systems and agricultural technology, as well as to the factors that affect the demand and use of food, which include economic resources, demographic patterns, various cultural, and knowledge factors associated with food choice, and also disease patterns, sociological considerations, such as the role of women and family structure.

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