Dietary research in context ShareThis

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The studies included in CLOSER embody over seventy years of history and changing public health policy in the UK. It is important to understand the broader context at the time when using the dietary data in these cohorts.

Nutritional science is a relatively new discipline with the first vitamin being isolated and chemically defined in 1926. In the early years, the focus of nutritional science was on the identification of specific nutrients and their role in deficiency diseases like scurvy (vitamin C), rickets (vitamin D) and goitre (iodine). On the back of these successes, this approach was extended to identify single nutrients that were related to non-communicable diseases. This reductionist method led to the development of nutrient-based guidelines in the 1980s, e.g. recommendations to reduce fat intake. More recent advances have identified that the impact of nutrition on health and non-communicable diseases is far more complex than a single nutrient approach and to fully understand it, foods and dietary patterns rather than single nutrients should be explored.  A full history of nutritional science can be found in previous publications [11-13].

There are nutrition-related events in UK-history that the researcher should also be mindful of when using the dietary data in longitudinal/CLOSER studies e.g. rationing in the 1940s, an increase in kitchen-appliances and a return of women back into the workforce in the 1980s, and promotion of healthy eating from 1980s. Some of these are outlined in the table below, reproduced from the detailed paper published by the British Nutrition Foundation in 2007 [14].


Timeline of diet-related events in the UK (Reproduced from [14])

[table id=279 /]

Notes. BMA: British Medical Association; CAP: Common Agricultural Policy; COMA: Committee on the Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition; DH: Department of Health; EEC: European Economic Community; EU: European Union; FSA: Food Standards Agency; NACNE: National Advisory Committee on Nutrition Education; SACN: Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition; WCRF: World Cancer Research Fund; WFS: Welfare Food Scheme.


Explore additional background detail:

Learn more about the individual studies covered by this guide and their dietary measurements:

Learn about harmonisation in the context of dietary data:

Further information:

This page is part of the CLOSER resource: ‘A guide to the dietary data in eight CLOSER studies’.