Calculated in terms of the quantity and composition of the nutrients and other healthpromoting constituents, is ‘optimal’ (in terms of health) according to current scientific insights. Maintaining a healthy eating pattern is therefore a question of eating neither too much nor too little (the energy intake must be in balance with energy expenditure), and that the dietary composition (in terms of the main nutrients) is in line with the recommended levels.
The term ‘food’ is defined as the complete range of foods and edible products made available by the agricultural sector and the food processing industry. We may speak of ‘safe food’ if the foodstuffs offered and eventually consumed contain no harmful concentrations of micro-organisms, chemical contaminants or other undesirable constituents, according to current scientific knowledge.
From the above, it will be clear that the relationships between diet, food and health are complex. Nevertheless, we wish to arrive at certain principles on which to base government policy. More specifically, we shall attempt to identify policy lines and related activities which make a real contribution in terms of maintaining or improving health.
An examination of the figure from top to bottom, with specific attention for dietrelated factors, reveals the following picture. The arrow between ‘Health status’ and ‘Diet’ is self-explanatory. While diet will have an influence on some personal characteristics (e.g. overweight) it should be noted that the interplay of diet and personal characteristics (e.g. individual differences in sensitivity to certain food constituents) will also affect overall health outcomes.
Diet in terms of actual consumption is determined by lifestyle factors (eating behaviour or eating habits) on the one hand, and the external factor (physical environment) of food supply on the other, both in terms of the range of foods available and their quality. Diet may therefore be regarded as the product of eating behaviour on the one hand and available foods on the other (Diet = Eating behaviour x Food supply).