The July Nutrition Society Paper of the month is from British Journal of Nutrition  and is entitled ‘Slow pace of dietary change in Scotland: 2001 –9’.

The original call for the work described in this paper came from the Working Group convened by the Food Standards Agency Scotland and the Scottish Executive in 2004 to investigate how to assess progress towards the Scottish Dietary Targets (Table 1). These targets had been formulated in 1996 but there had been no attempt to monitor progress. The group was faced with the fact that whilst Scotland had dietary targets we were unlikely to know if we had reached them unless we could utilise robust survey data. Reviews were commissioned to see what was available and 4 possibilities were noted (Table 2).

The full report of the Working Group on Monitoring Scottish Dietary Targets can be found online but in essence they concluded that ‘There is no single existing survey that addresses the Scottish Dietary targets’ and ‘The Expenditure and Food Survey should be used to monitor progress towards the Scottish Dietary Targets in 2005 and beyond.’ The food categories reported in the Expenditure and Food Survey (EFS) did not match the dietary targets exactly and it was decided that we needed to go back to the original data to estimate the intakes of the foods and nutrients relevant to the targets. As the survey (and its successor the Living Costs and Food Survey) is a household purchase survey the calculation methods needed to include factors for waste, proportion of composite foods and take account of cooking and preservation methods. In addition, there was a need to look at the impact of deprivation on the dietary intakes and link the data with an area based measure of deprivation relevant to Scotland, i.e. the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation.

The results of the overall monitoring work for 9 years of data are described in the paper and show that the diet that has changed very little! There were few consistent improvements in the consumption of foods or nutrients targeted for change over the period 2001 to 2009. A small but significant increase was seen in mean fruit and vegetable consumption (259 g/d in 2001, 279 g/d in 2009, equating to an increase of less than 3 g/person per year). There was also a significant decrease in the percentage of food energy from saturated fat (15•5% in 2001, 15•1% in 2009) and from non-milk extrinsic sugars (15•5% in 2001, 14•8% in 2009), concurrent with a reduction in whole milk consumption and soft drink consumption, respectively.

Monitoring the Scottish Diet is an on-going project and we have shown that the original time limited targets set for achievement in 2005 and then for 2010 were not met. Revised Dietary Goals for Scotland have now been published. These are intended as “a strategic reference point for the organisations and stakeholders whose actions can influence our national diet” rather than time limited goals for the individual consumer. Fruit and vegetables, oily fish, fat, saturated fat and non-milk extrinsic sugars will continue to be monitored together with the new goals for red meat, energy consumption (a reduction in calorie intake by 120 kcal/person/day), energy density (125 kcal/100g) and non-starch polysaccharides.

This paper is freely available for one month

Nutrition Society Paper of the Month

Each month a paper is selected by one of the Editors of the five Nutrition Society Publications (British Journal of NutritionPublic Health NutritionNutrition Research ReviewsProceedings of the Nutrition Society and Journal of Nutritional Science). This paper is freely available for one month.

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