Nutrition and Diet
Inadequate nutrition serves as a risk factor for morbidity and mortality from infectious diseases. Diarrheal and respiratory diseases, measles, tuberculosis, and malaria are the principal causes of death for malnourished children. The prevalence of malnutrition resulting from insufficient protein-energy diets among children under five years in Brazil in 1990 was 13.0 percent. Nevertheless, malnutrition within this age-group dropped substantially (61.4 percent) during the years 1975-88. Chronic malnutrition in 1989 characterized 15.4 percent of the entire population. The Northeast suffered from a greater rate of chronic malnutrition (27.3 percent) than the South (8.1 percent). The indigenous population's rate was twice that of low-income groups.
Improvement in nutrition has been accompanied by changes in the typical Brazilian diet. The staples of the traditional diet in Brazil are rice and beans, supplemented by whatever meat may be available, and few, if any, green vegetables. In the Amazon region, the staple carbohydrate is manioc meal, usually eaten with fish. Bread and pasta have become important parts of the diet of low-income families, especially in urban areas, because of government subsidies for wheat. Advances in poultry-raising have led to lower prices and greater consumption of chicken and eggs as sources of protein. Urban and rural workers often take their home-made rice and bean lunches to work, although this practice in urban areas is being replaced by employer-provided meal tickets for use in restaurants or luncheonettes, including fast-food outlets.
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