oa South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition - The lack of food intake data and the consequences thereof : invited review

Volume 24, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1607-0658
  • E-ISSN: 2221-1268



Generally, South African researchers working in the fields of nutrition and dietetics collect food intake data as a first step towards determining the nutritional status of various populations. However, on publication, the majority of the results obtained from these studies are expressed in terms of nutrient intake, whereas food intake data are either not included, or are presented in non-uniform formats. Subsequently, other researchers who wish to determine what foods South Africans are eating are not able to access food intake data from existing studies. For example, if the Food-Based Dietary Guidelines (FBDG), which are expressly based on food, and not nutrient intakes, are to be revised regularly as stipulated by the World Health Organization (WHO), very little additional food intake data from the decade following publication of the first FBDG in 2001 would be available for adult South Africans. It is probable that the consumption of certain foods may have increased because of urbanisation and Westernisation of large sectors of the population. Conversely, economic factors, including the present recession, household food insecurity and poor food choices, may have reduced the intake of nutrient-dense foods in the past decade. The present review describes the disparity in reporting of food intake data, and deficiencies in making data that are available in electronic storage systems accessible to researchers working in the fields of public health nutrition, food production and utilisation, community nutrition and education. The creation of a working committee to make food intake data more accessible is proposed.

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