Food consumption patterns around the world are changing. In general, individuals around the globe are consuming more edible oils and sugars than they were twenty years ago. What has lead to this nutrition transition? Scholars have identified a range of mechanisms associated with the transition, but nearly all are related to the growing influence of transnational corporations on the global food system. These TNCs are the lead actors in most global food production systems, dictating what is produced, how it is processed, where it is sold and the desirability of food products to global consumers. Looking at these TNCs through the lens of global value chain analysis can begin to shed light on the global and local interactions that are contributing to changing food consumption patterns. These TNCs have come to dominate the global food value chain by operating globally to promote efficiency as well as locally to take advantage of regional preferences. A global value chain perspective highlights the role of TNCs in increasing the availability, affordability and desirability of diets higher in fat and sugar in Malaysia. These diets are scientifically linked to a higher risk for noncommunicable diseases such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease and Malaysia has experienced rising rates of noncommunicable disease. Because developing nations do not have the financial or medical capacity to deal with these rising rates of noncommunicable disease, the nutrition transition could lead to a global public health crisis. To avoid this kind of crisis, future GVC research should identify intervention points in global food value chains that can reverse this trend and encourage global TNCs to positively influence local diets in the future.

First Advisor

Emelie Peine

Degree Type


Date of Award

Spring 2012