Estimating national and subnational nutrient intake distributions of global diets

Simone Passarelli*, Christopher M Free, Lindsay H Allen, Carolina Batis, Ty Beal, Anja Pia Biltoft-Jensen, Sabri Bromage, Ling Cao, Analí Castellanos-Gutiérrez, Tue Christensen, Sandra P Crispim, Arnold Dekkers, Karin De Ridder, Selma Kronsteiner-Gicevic, Christopher Lee, Yanping Li, Mourad Moursi, Isabelle Moyersoen, Josef Schmidhuber, Alon SheponDaniel F Viana, Christopher D Golden

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Background: Access to high-quality dietary intake data is central to many nutrition, epidemiology, economic, environmental, and policy applications. When data on individual nutrient intakes are available, they have not been consistently disaggregated by sex and age groups, and their parameters and full distributions are often not publicly available.
Objectives: We sought to derive usual intake distributions for as many nutrients and population subgroups as possible, use these distributions to estimate nutrient intake inadequacy, compare these distributions and evaluate the implications of their shapes on the estimation of inadequacy, and make these distributions publicly available.
Methods: We compiled dietary data sets from 31 geographically diverse countries, modeled usual intake distributions for 32 micronutrients and 21 macronutrients, and disaggregated these distributions by sex and age groups. We compared the variability and skewness of the distributions and evaluated their similarity across countries, sex, and age groups. We estimated intake inadequacy for 16 nutrients based on a harmonized set of nutrient requirements and bioavailability estimates. Last, we created an R package-nutriR-to make these distributions freely available for users to apply in their own analyses.
Results: Usual intake distributions were rarely symmetric and differed widely in variability and skewness across nutrients and countries. Vitamin intake distributions were more variable and skewed and exhibited less similarity among countries than other nutrients. Inadequate intakes were high and geographically concentrated, as well as generally higher for females than males. We found that the shape of usual intake distributions strongly affects estimates of the prevalence of inadequate intakes.
Conclusions: The shape of nutrient intake distributions differs based on nutrient and subgroup and strongly influences estimates of nutrient intake inadequacy. This research represents an important contribution to the availability and application of dietary intake data for diverse subpopulations around the world.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)551–560
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Nutrient
  • Dietary data
  • Intake
  • Global health
  • Methods
  • Subgroup
  • Distribution
  • Epidemiology
  • Nutrient intake
  • Nutrition


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