Many different dietary diversity indicators have been used, particularly in research contexts. Some count individual food items, and others (like Minimum Dietary Diversity for Women of Reproductive Age [MDD-W]) are based on counts of food groups. A wide range of different indicators (counts and scores) have been found to relate positively to nutrient intake and other outcomes.1 Table 1 in Section 1 of Minimum Dietary Diversity for Women – A guide to measurement provides a comparison of several indicators.
The MDD-W differs from other food group diversity indicators in two ways.
First, the MDD-W was developed based on analysis of nine data sets from Africa and Asia using a common analytic protocol and relating the indicator to the micronutrient adequacy of women’s diets across 11 micronutrients. Another indicator, the infant and young child feeding indicator of minimum dietary diversity, was also based on analysis of multiple data sets using a common protocol.2 However, many other dietary diversity indicators in use have not been assessed in multiple settings.
Second, responding to demand for a dichotomous (yes/no) indicator, MDD-W provides a threshold value of five or more of ten food groups to use as a criterion in assessments. This allows expression of the prevalence of meeting “Minimum dietary diversity for women of reproductive age” at the population level.
1 Ruel, M.T. Operationalizing dietary diversity: a review of measurement issues and research priorities. 2003. J Nutr., 133(11 Suppl 2): 3911S–3926S.
2 WHO. 2008. Indicators for assessing infant and young child feeding practices. Part I : Definitions. Geneva, WHO.