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Use of human body measurements to obtain information about nutritional status.

Body mass index

A ratio of weight for height often used to estimate body fat. It is obtained by dividing a person’s weight (kg) by the square of his/her height (m). BMI is not appropriate for the assessment of growing children, frail and sedentary elderly individuals, or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Degree of food deprivation

A measure of the overall food insecurity situation in a country, based on a classification system that combines prevalence of undernourishment, i.e. the proportion of the total population suffering from a dietary energy deficit, and depth of undernourishment, i.e. the magnitude of the undernourished population’s dietary energy deficit.

Dietary energy deficit

The difference between the average daily dietary energy intake of an undernourished population and its average minimum energy requirement.

Dietary energy intake

The energy content of food consumed.

Dietary energy requirement

The amount of dietary energy required by an individual to maintain body functions, health and normal activity.

Dietary energy supply

Food available for human consumption, expressed in kilocalories (kcal) per capita per day. At the country level, it is calculated as the food remaining for human use after the deduction of all non-food consumption (exports, animal feed, industrial use, seed and wastage).

Dollar purchasing power parity

The purchasing power of a country’s currency in relation to the US dollar; the number of units of a given currency required to purchase a basket of goods and services valued at US$1 in the United States.

Food inadequacy

Food intake that is continuously insufficient to meet dietary energy requirements.

Food insecurity

A situation that exists when people lack secure access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development and an active, healthy life. It may be caused by the unavailability of food, insufficient purchasing power or the inappropriate distribution or inadequate use of food at the household level. Food insecurity, poor conditions of health and sanitation and inappropriate care and feeding practices are the major causes of poor nutritional status. Food insecurity may be chronic, seasonal or transitory.

Food security

A situation that exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.

Gini coefficient

An aggregate numerical measure of income inequality ranging from 0 (perfect equality) to 1 (perfect inequality). The higher the value of the coefficient, the higher the inequality of income distribution; the lower the value, the more equitable the distribution of income.

Kilocalorie (kcal)

A unit of measurement of energy: 1 kcal = 1 000 calories. In the International System of Units (ISU), the universal unit of energy is the joule (J). 1 kcal = 4.184 kilojoules (kJ).

Low birth weight

Newborn infants who weigh less than 2.5 kg at birth.


Used in this publication to refer to the proteins, carbohydrates and fats that are required by the body in large amounts and that are available to be used for energy. They are measured in grams.


An abnormal physiological condition caused by deficiencies, excesses or imbalances in energy, protein and/or other nutrients.


The vitamins, minerals and certain other substances that are required by the body in small amounts. They are measured in milligrams or micrograms.

Minimum dietary energy requirement

In a specified age/sex category, the amount of dietary energy per capita that is considered adequate to meet energy needs for light activity and good health. For an entire population, the minimum energy requirement is the weighted average of the minimum energy requirements of the different age/sex groups in the population. It is expressed in kcal per capita per day.

Nutritional status

The physiological state of an individual that results from the relationship between nutrient intake and requirements and from the body’s ability to digest, absorb and use these nutrients.


Food intake that is continuously in excess of dietary energy requirements.

Overweight and obesity

Body weight that is above normal as a result of an excessive accumulation of fat. It is usually a manifestation of overnourishment. Overweight is defined in this publication as BMI >25-30 and obesity as BMI >30.


Low height for age, reflecting a sustained past episode or episodes of undernutrition.


The result of inadequate food consumption, poor absorption and/or poor biological use of nutrients consumed.


Low weight for age in children, and BMI <18.5 in adults, reflecting a current condition resulting from inadequate food intake, past episodes of undernutrition or poor health conditions.


The presence of factors that place people at risk of becoming food-insecure or malnourished, including factors that affect their ability to cope.

Vulnerable group

A group of people with common characteristics, a high proportion of whom are food-insecure or at risk of becoming food-insecure.


Low weight for height, generally the result of weight loss associated with a recent period of starvation or disease.

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