Consumers don’t consider nutrition part of sustainability, Arla finds

10-Jan-2022

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations describes sustainable diets as consisting of multiple essential components which include the environmental impact

A recent survey of more than 8,000 consumers in Europe, conducted by YouGov for Arla Foods, found two thirds (66%) do not see nutrition as part of sustainable diets. Becoming ‘nutrition blind’ can have unintended consequences for our health, the company argues.

While most respondents said they try to make sustainable choices where they can, their attention is mostly on carbon footprint, biodiversity, packaging and animal welfare. Only one in three (34%) consumers said they associate nutrition with sustainable diets.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations describes sustainable diets as consisting of multiple essential components which include the environmental impact but also the nutritional value of the diet.

Professor Judy Buttriss, public health nutritionist and former Director General of the British Nutrition Foundation from 2007 to 2021 said: “It’s great that we continue to grow our awareness of how food production and our diets affect the climate and nature. However, this research shows that many people tend to overlook the other determinants of sustainable diets, especially nutrition, which has always been the fundamental purpose of food and an essential factor for our long-term physical and mental well-being. Becoming ‘nutrition blind’ can have unintended consequences for our health and we need to bring nutrition back into the conversation about sustainable diets.”

With more than half of the European population overweight and every sixth person obese according to the World Health Organization (WHO), overnutrition is by far the most serious nutrition-related health issue in Europe. However, there is also a third and more hidden problem in both developing and developed countries, which is often seen in combination with obesity: low intakes of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).

Lea Brader, Nutrition Scientist, Arla Foods, said: “People at risk of micronutrient deficiency might not realise it. If your diet is poor, you can still get your energy from the macronutrients such as carbohydrate and fat. However, you don’t necessarily get sufficient amounts of micronutrients such as iron, zinc, calcium, iodine, vitamin A, B-vitamins, and vitamin C. This is why micronutrient deficiency is also called ‘hidden hunger’.”

The survey did show a desire among consumers to find out information about how to make their diets more sustainable. However, half felt confused about how to eat sustainably and 52% said they would like more information.

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Official dietary guidelines promote diets that are nutritious, accessible, affordable and culturally acceptable. More and more countries have started to also include consideration of the climate impact of the food as well as food waste issues.

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