Assessing diet in European populations using national dietary surveys.Proc Nutr Soc 2020; :1-11PN
The WHO encourages countries to conduct national dietary surveys (NDS) to inform preventative policies targeting malnutrition and noncommunicable diseases. Previous reviews have found inadequate nutrient intakes and survey provision across Europe. This research is the first to provide an updated review of NDS provision within the whole WHO European Region, across the lifecourse, with reference to disadvantaged groups, obesity and nutrients of concern. Over a third of WHO European countries, mainly Central and Eastern European countries (CEEC), had no identifiable NDS. Where countries reported nutrient intakes, poor WHO recommended nutrient intake attainment was Europe-wide across the lifecourse, particularly in CEEC. Lower educated individuals had poorer diet quality. However, heterogeneity in age group sampled, dietary assessment method, nutrient composition database and under-reporting hindered inter-country comparisons. Average population trans fatty acid intakes below WHO recommended limits may hide inequalities in disadvantaged groups; legislative bans may help alleviate this. There were few associations between NDS-derived consumed food portion size (FPS) and BMI. However, consumed FPS was greater than on-pack serving-size in the majority of foods studied. This review illustrates how NDS can generate information on diet, nutrient intakes and the food environment. However, to enable valid inter-country comparisons, countries should be encouraged to conduct and report harmonised NDS, particularly in the age groups sampled, dietary assessment methodology, nutrient range, underpinning food composition database and treatment of under-reporters. This will aid effective, coordinated policy development that can have a real impact on dietary improvement, on a population and subgroup level, throughout Europe.