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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Has the German Diet Changed for the Better Over the Past Decade?

By Julia Bird

The German dietary guidelines are very similar to those in other countries. The ten rules include enjoying a balanced and varied diet, eating whole grain cereals, choosing 5 servings of fruit and vegetables every day, daily consumption of calcium-rich dairy, fish once or twice a week, reducing fat, salt and sugar consumption, adequate liquid intake (particularly water), keeping fit and maintaining a healthy weight.

Unfortunately, as in other countries, it seems that not everyone heeds this advice. The German National Nutrition Survey (NVS) has been designed to provide representative estimates of food and nutrient intakes in the German population. In 2005-2007, this survey conducted an analysis of two 24-hour dietary recalls of 15,110 participants as part of the NVS II. This study found that consumption of foods of plant origin was too low, and meat consumption was too high. Specifically, consumption of vegetables was half what is recommended. Food consumption habits can change. Gose, Krems, Heuer and Hoffmann report on longitudinal trends in the German diet over a period of almost 10 years.

The same participants in the NVS II were asked in the years 2012-2013 for another two 24-hour dietary recalls. Another cohort, the NEMONIT study, was also asked to participate in data collection, and these subjects had their diets assessed every two years over 2008-2013. A healthy eating index based on the German guidelines was developed, and consumption of various nutrients and food groups was calculated using specialized dietary software.

The results show that there was no overall change in dietary quality as measured by the Healthy Eating Index. The consumption of water, tea and coffee increased. Even so, consumption of fruit decreased, and intake of animal fat increased for both men and women, and women reported eating more confectionary. It seems that some of the favorable changes in the diet were matched by unfavorable changes.

Energy intake remained the same, with decreases in carbohydrate consumption compensated for by increases in fat intakes. The quality of the diet in terms of micronutrients was decreased: men and women reported decreases in intakes of riboflavin, vitamin B6 and thiamin, while men’s folate intake also decreased. Women increased their intake of niacin, iron and magnesium. As people aged, their intakes of water and other non-alcoholic beverages decreased, while fruit and fiber intakes increased.  The study reaffirmed that meat consumption was too high and consumption of plant foods was too low.

It seems that there is more work to do in encouraging the German population to choose a healthier diet: Mehr Obst und Gemüse, weniger Wurst!


Main citation:

Maria Gose, Carolin Krems, Thorsten Heuer and Ingrid Hoffmann. Trends in food consumption and nutrient intake in Germany between 2006 and 2012: results of the German National Nutrition Monitoring (NEMONIT). British Journal of Nutrition, available on CJO2016. doi:10.1017/S0007114516000544.

Supporting citations:

Park MK, Park JY, Nicolas G, Paik HY, Kim J, Slimani N. Adapting a standardised international 24 h dietary recall methodology (GloboDiet software) for research and dietary surveillance in Korea. Br J Nutr. 2015 Jun 14;113(11):1810-8. doi: 10.1017/S0007114515000987. Epub 2015 Apr 22.