Increasing Sedentary Time, Minimum Dietary Energy Requirements and Food Security Assessment

Jacob Michels, Yacob Abrehe Zereyesus, John C. Beghin
May 2024  [24-WP 659]

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Michels, M., Y.A. Zereyesus, and J.C. Beghin. 2024. "Increasing Sedentary Time, Minimum Dietary Energy Requirements and Food Security Assessment." Working paper 24-WP 659. Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, Iowa State University.


We compute corrections for sedentary behavior in physical activity levels (PALs) and incorporate them along with corrections for over estimation of basal metabolic rates (BMRs) into threshold caloric intakes, known as Minimum Dietary Energy Requirements (MDERs). Using these modified MDERs, we compute new estimates of food insecure populations using USDA-ERS International Food Security Assessment (IFSA) model for the 83 countries covered by IFSA for 2023. We compute moderate upward biases in the FAO’s MDERs due to sedentarism of 3.52% or 57.49 kcal a day, leading to an average of 1720 caloric MDER, which translate to reductions in the estimate of food insecure population of 71.3 million in the 83 IFSA countries. With both BMR and PAL corrections, the MDER falls to 1638 kcal on average and the food insecure population estimate falls by 173.6 million. Relative to USDA-ERS’ 2100-calorie threshold estimating 1.056 billion food-insecure, the 1638 kcal per capita per day accounting for BMR and PAL corrections would result in 711.7 million reductions. Robustness checks using a lognormal distribution approach with FAO data confirm similar large responses of food insecure population estimates to the MDER corrections for the same countries. Beyond the correction for systematic upward bias, estimating more precise MDERs will lead to more precise food insecure estimates.