Meeting UK dietary recommendations is associated with higher estimated consumer food costs: An analysis using the National Diet and Nutrition Survey and consumer expenditure data, 2008-12

31 May 2018

Abstract Objective: To test whether diets achieving recommendations from the United Kingdom’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) was associated with higher monetary costs in a nationally-representative sample of UK adults. Design: This was a cross-sectional study linking four-day diet diaries in the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) to contemporaneous food price data from a market research firm. The monetary cost of diets was assessed in relation to whether or not they met eight food- and nutrient-based recommendations from SACN. Regression models adjusted for potential confounding factors. The primary outcome measure was individual dietary cost per-day and per-2000kcal. Setting: United Kingdom. Subjects: Adults (n=2,045) sampled between 2008-2012 in the NDNS. Results: On an isoenergetic basis, diets that met the recommendations for fruit and vegetables, oily fish, non-milk extrinsic sugars, fat, saturated fat and salt were estimated to be between 3% and 17% more expensive. Diets meeting the recommendation for red and processed meats were 3% less expensive whilst meeting the recommendation for fibre was cost-neutral. Meeting multiple targets was also associated with higher costs; on average, diets meeting six or more SACN recommendations were estimated to be 29% more costly than isoenergetic diets that met no recommendations. Conclusions: Food costs may be a population-level barrier limiting the adoption of dietary recommendations in the UK. Future research should focus on identifying systems- and individual-level strategies to enable consumers to achieve dietary recommendations without increasing food costs. Such strategies may improve the uptake of healthy eating in the population.