It has long been realized that a relationship exists between diet and food on the one hand, and health and disease on the other. If our intake of the substances which provide energy is too low, the result will be under nutrition. Similarly, an inadequate intake of the vitamins and minerals required for regeneration and regulation is likely to lead to various deficiency diseases, some of which can be life-threatening.
Current scientific insights however, suggest a more complex relationship between diet and health, particularly in terms of the so-called ‘lifestyle diseases’. A high energy intake with low energy expenditure is unhealthy, because this will result in overweight, which is a risk factor for a number of chronic diseases. Similarly, an excessive intake of certain macronutrients, such as the Trans and saturated fatty acids, is known to have an adverse effect on health.
Toxic effects have also been observed from a high intake of certain micronutrients, including vitamins. Conversely, beneficial effects have been ascribed to certain non-nutrients, which are said to protect against some chronic illnesses. In particular, this is the case with fiber and certain plant metabolites (polyphenols and lignin’s) as found in fruit and vegetables.
Other non-nutrients such as naturally occurring toxins and anti-nutritional factors, however, may lead to adverse health effects. Given the undeniable importance of healthy diet and safe food in terms of public health, the Dutch government has for many decades devoted due attention to these factors, regarding this as one of its key tasks.
behavior and lifestyle
The government is often in the front line of food safety issues, and is able to implement the measures required to ensure food safety. However, the promotion of healthy eating habits is a somewhat more difficult undertaking, given that this is largely a matter of individual choice and that it is more difficult to force changes in behavior and lifestyle.
It also applies to the constituents which are not intentionally added, such as chemical and microbiological contaminants. Besides the serious chronic illnesses associated with these contaminants, particular attention is devoted to acute health problems such as gastro-enteritis and food poisoning.