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Diet of North Koreans Has Changed Little in 50 Years

FILE - A young North Korean boy peeps over his serving of noodles at a restaurant in Pyongyang, Sept. 1, 2014.

FILE - A young North Korean boy peeps over his serving of noodles at a restaurant in Pyongyang, Sept. 1, 2014.

A study of United Nations data shows the diet of North Koreans has changed little over the past 50 years. The American-based magazine National Geographic examined the information and reported the findings.

The magazine studied changes in diet from 1961 to 2011 in 22 countries, including North Korea and the United States. It looked at the average number of calories consumed in each country. Calories are a measure of energy in food. They can be found in the food we eat and the liquids we drink.

The study found that an adult in North Korea consumed about 2,103 calories a day in 2011. That represents an increase from 1,878 calories in 1961. But it is much lower than the 2,500 calories a day suggested by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

The data also suggests the average North Korean has an unbalanced diet. National Geographic magazine says the diet of North Koreans is more dependent on grain than any of the 22 countries studied. In 1961, North Koreans got more than 70 percent of their caloric intake from single grains like rice, wheat and maize. Fifty years later, the percentage was 61 percent.

North Koreans also eat very little meat. The amount of meat consumed dropped sharply during the country’s famine in the 1990s. But after the food shortages ended, the amount of meat consumed remains low. An average North Korean consumed 141 grams of meat a day in 1989. By 2011, after years of famines and food shortages, that number had dropped to 67 grams.

In 1961, North Koreans had a similar diet to people in South Korea. But in the past 50 years, the South Korean diet has improved. The daily caloric intake has increased from 2,140 to 3,329 per person. The percentage of grains in the South Korean diet has dropped from 82 percent to 43 percent. In 1961, meat represented just two percent of the South Korean diet. By 2011, it was 12 percent.

National Geographic reported that Americans ate the most among the 22 countries studied. It says Americans consumed an average of 3,641 calories a day in 2011. The world average was 2,870 calories.

I’m Christopher Cruise.

This report was based on a story from VOA’s Eunjung Cho. Jee Abbey Lee helped with reporting. This story was produced in cooperation with the VOA Korea Service. Christopher Cruise wrote the story in VOA Learning English. The editor was George Grow.


Words in this Story

data n. facts or information used usually to estimate or plan something

calories n. a measure of the amount of energy that foods will produce in the human body

famine n. a situation in which many people do not have enough food to eat; food shortage

grams n. a weight in the metric system that is equal to 1/1000 kilogram

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