There has been little progress towards improving Scotland’s national diet and health over a 15 year period, according to research conducted by Robert Gordon, Abertay and Newcastle Universities.
The study, funded by Food Standards Scotland, examined annual trends in food consumption and nutrient intakes between 2013 and 2015, using food purchase data from the UK Living Costs and Food Survey. This data was then evaluated alongside a previously published report which focused on figures from 2001–2012.
The aim of the research was to monitor the nation’s progress towards the Scottish Dietary Goals – first published in 1996, before being updated in 2013 and 2016. It found that intakes of fruit and vegetables, oil rich fish, and dietary fibre remain too low, with free sugars, total fat and saturated fat being too high in relation to the goals. While there has been a small reduction in the levels of free sugars and saturated fat, when compared to the initial 2001 data, progress towards a diet that will improve and support the health of the Scottish population has been very slow.
Dr Lindsey Masson, a nutrition lecturer from Robert Gordon University and Registered Nutritionist, acted as Principal Investigator for the study.
She said: ‘In Scotland, 65% of adults are overweight and 29% of adults are obese. Therefore, it is essential that we start to reduce our consumption of foods that are high in sugar and fat – namely biscuits, confectionery, crisps, cakes, pastries, puddings and sugar-sweetened drinks. In addition to raising awareness of the health benefits of meeting dietary recommendations, the Scottish Government needs to support the population in achieving these dietary goals.’
This study aimed to support work by the Scottish Government and Food Standards Scotland to facilitate improvements to the Scottish diet and help reduce the burden of obesity and diet-related disease. Its results have already been drawn upon in Food Standards Scotland’s Situation Report – ‘The Scottish Diet: It needs to change’ and in the Scottish Government’s ‘A Healthier Future: Scotland’s Diet & Healthy Weight Delivery Plan’.
Dr Karen Barton, Registered Nutritionist, first author of the research and lecturer from Abertay University, pointed out another interesting result which became apparent.
She said: ‘We found differences in dietary intake by deprivation – with households in the most deprived areas consuming significantly less fruit and vegetables, oil rich fish and fibre than those in the least deprived areas. However intakes for all groups of the population were considerably lower than the Scottish Dietary Goals.
‘The fruit and vegetable recommendation in particular is well-known – five portions per day – however that awareness does not seem to translate into changes in our dietary behaviour.”