long bear parajumpers Based Dietary Guidelines in Europe
carbohydrates, fat, protein, vitamins and minerals) they should be eating to achieve a healthy balanced diet. Food labels can also provide useful details on the amounts of the different nutrients contained in a food. However, the nutrient information available can seem quite complex, is not well understood by the majority of consumers, and it is of limited use when preparing family menus without a good knowledge of nutrition. This makes it necessary to provide nutrient advice in a way consumers can understand.
What are Food Based Dietary Guidelines (FBDG)?
Food based dietary guidelines (FBDG) are simple messages on healthy eating, aimed at the general public. They give an indication of what a person should be eating in terms of foods rather than nutrients, and provide a basic framework to use when planning meals or daily menus. Characteristics as described by the World Health Organization (WHO) are
the expression of the principles of nutrition education mostly as foods.
intended for use by individual members of the general public, and
if not expressed entirely as foods, written in language that avoids, as far as possible, the technical terms of nutritional science.
FBDG should provide simple, food based messages that are relevant to the population concerned and practical to follow. They can be broad and unspecific such as ‚eat a variety of foods each day‘ or ‚eat plenty of fruits and vegetables‘, or more specific such as ‚eat five portions of fruits and vegetables a day‘. Messages may also indicate the type of food, such as ‚eat low fat dairy products and drink low fat milk‘, or be meal specific such as ‚eat breakfast every day‘.
FBDG avoid the use of numerical recommended intakes of nutrients (such as recommended daily allowances RDA) or population targets, but provide a practical way of interpreting these into dietary advice for individuals within a population. So, if the population target for saturated fat is 10% of total energy, and the current intake is higher, messages will include those designed to reduce saturated fat intake, such as ‚choose lean cuts of meat‘.
Long before the discovery of the vitamins, their role in the body, and the establishment of food composition databases, people knew that different foods were important for health. Dietary recommendations were often based on observations, such as those of James Lind, a surgeon in the British navy during the 18th century who demonstrated that limes and oranges cured scurvy in sailors whereas other remedies such as vinegar and cider did not. Forty years after he published his findings all ships in the British navy were ordered to carry lime juice, and scurvy on board ships was virtually eradicated.
Since World War II, food based advice has been given to ensure adequate intakes of both macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), often using a system of food groupings. This involved placing foods with similar characteristics into the same food group and advising people to eat from each group every day. However, during the 1970s nutritionists became concerned with the over consumption of fats, especially saturated fats, and sugars, and the lack of fibre in the diet. As a result, advice in developed countries tended to become more nutrient based, with emphasis on macro rather than micronutrients. This was mixed with some food based advice to encourage eating more or less of those foods which were high or low in macronutrients of concern,
but the use of traditional food groups became less popular.
Recognition of the value of FBDG
At an International Conference on Nutrition in Rome in 1992, a plan for action was adopted which called for the dissemination of nutrition information through sustainable food based approaches that encourage dietary diversification through the production and consumption of micronutrient rich foods, including appropriate traditional foods. The plan for action marked a change from policies dictated by numbers to policies focussing on prevailing public health problems. Following this, in 1996 the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) of the United Nations published guidelines for the development of FBDG.2 Those guidelines remain the key reference work on the subject today.
The European International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI Europe) has organised two workshops focussing on FBDG. The first one was held in Vilnius (Lithuania) and Nitra (Slovakia) in 1997. It focussed on the ‚Development of local FBDG and nutrition education‘. Seven years later, ILSI Europe, in collaboration with the FAO, organised a follow up workshop with 6 out of the 19 countries that participated in the first workshop. The focus was extended to also comprise the implementation and monitoring of FBDG. The document ‚National Food Based Dietary Guidelines: Experiences, Implications and Future Directions‘ summarises the outcome of the workshop and shows the progress achieved by the 6 participating countries with regard to both the development and implementation of FBDG.3 A framework for FBDG in the European Union was agreed in 2000 as part of the Eurodiet project, and published in 2001.4
In 2003, the WHO assessed the existence of FBDG among the Member States of the WHO European Region. The results showed that out of the 48 participating countries, 25 had national FBDG that had been endorsed by the government. The Network of Excellence is studying micronutrient requirements and the development of recommendations for vulnerable population groups. Hereby, it seeks to create tools which should help EFSA and other institutions charged with setting micronutrient recommendations. as well as guide the future development of FBDG in European countries. The aim of EURRECA is to produce Europe wide scientific consensus on the evidence appropriate for developing micronutrient recommendations. This in turn should enable rapid and convenient translation into recommendations published in national policy documents.
The EURRECA Network, originally made up of 34 partners based in 17 countries, has a large involvement from academia, food industry (including small and medium sized enterprises), consumer groups, national nutrition societies and the health professions. The Network will be collaborating throughout this project with EFSA.7
In May 2009 the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in collaboration with the European Food Information Council (EUFIC) organised a workshop on the development, communication and evaluation of FBDG. Fourteen Central and Eastern European countries participated in this workshop in Budapest.
In order to know which foods and food groups should be included in FBDG, it is necessary to assess the nutritional status of the target population. In some cases, this might be difficult to achieve, which is why provisional FBDG are built on other countries‘ nutritional recommendations or FBDG, or on the World Health Organization’s dietary guide CINDI (Countrywide Integrated Noncommunicable Diseases Intervention).8 However, the evaluation of the nutritional status of a population is the best way to ensure that FBDG take into account the prevailing nutrient gaps and public health problems of a specific country.
In Europe, the main public health problems are diet and lifestyle related non communicable conditions such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. These diseases may partly derive from an excess intake of calorific nutrients and a shortage of certain micronutrients.
The joint FAO/WHO consultation report ‚Preparation and Use of Food Based Dietary Guidelines‘ encourages the formation of a ‚Working group or committee, comprising representatives of agriculture, health, food science, nutritional science, consumers, the food industry, communication and anthropology‘ as a first step in the development of FBDG.2 The process is highlighted both in the FAO/WHO report and in the EFSA Scientific Opinion from 2008, indicating the importance of involving people from different disciplines in the development.6 By doing this, one ensures that all relevant aspects of the different groups are taken into consideration. This increases the likelihood for success of the FBDG in addressing national health problems, and helps create greater awareness and acceptance of the guidelines among groups that might be involved in the dissemination, communication, and use of the FBDG.