The importance of forest foods for diet quality: A case study from Sangthong District, Laos

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Forests can make important contributions to the diet quality of forest proximate people for example through the direct provision of food. However, ongoing deforestation and forest degradation influence the availability of forest food – potentially decreasing the diet quality of people relying on forest food. Using a combination of food frequency questionnaires, wealth questionnaires, interviews, principal component analysis and land cover maps, this study examines the importance of forest food for diet quality in the two villages of Houay Tom and Maipaksang, Sangthong District, Laos (N = 49 households). We found that 71% of the respondents consumed forest food in the past week – and that a decrease in the forest area appears to have affected local people's diet quality negatively. Overall, forest food contributed to the consumption of six different food groups, and food sourced from the forest resulted in the consumption of minimum one additional food group for 48% of the respondents. Specifically, we found a significant positive association between forest food consumption and the consumption of more meat, poultry, and fish. Also, our findings suggest that the forest was most important for people belonging to the bottom wealth group. That is, this group exhibited higher consumption frequencies of forest food and forest food contributed more to their mean dietary diversity score and total consumption frequency compared to the upper- and middle wealth groups. Finally, the diet quality of households in the bottom wealth group might be more negatively affected by deforestation because these households typically are less engaged in various income-generating activities. These results point to the need of integrating forests into food and nutrition security and agriculture development policies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100166
JournalTrees, Forests and People
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
L.V.R. was funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme (Grant agreement No. 853222 FORESTDIET).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021

    Research areas

  • Deforestation, Diet quality, Dietary diversity, Forest food, Laos, Wealth

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